As far as relationships between HBCUs and PWIs go, there have always been misconceptions about what the HBCU campus culture truly is and whether or not it can offer the same quality of education as our PWI counterparts. Despite the notion that the quality of an HBCU quality education is somehow less than that which you’d get at a PWI has been rebuked faithfully by prominent members of the HBCU community, LSU alum and NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal had his own thoughts on the matter.
During NBA All-Star Weekend Basketball star Shaquille O’ Neal spoke about his college experience at an HBCU after failing biology and being forced to take it at Southern over the summer. According to initial statements by O’Neal, the difference in difficulty between the classes at SU vs LSU was apparent.
Firstly, there’s no universe that exists where Shaq wasn’t touching a basketball court due to poor grades, so regardless of the difficulty that Shaq may or may not have had with the classes that he took while briefly at Southern, I highly doubt that the powers that be would allow him to fail.
The theme of this year’s All-Star weekend was to show HBCUs in a positive light and Shaq didn’t do too well of representing the university. Shaq explained how he struggled in passing biology at LSU and transferred to Southern University and A&M College where the course was considered “easier” to pass.
As Shaq spoke about his experience, I believe his response made it seem as if Southern in comparison to LSU was easier because it was an HBCU. With the help of his colleague, Kenny Smith, Shaq tried relating how his HBCU experience benefited him but it didn’t reflect that well for Southern University. He cleaned up his response later by agreeing that just because Southern is an HBCU, they didn’t give him any breaks or short cuts.
This being said, this is a prime example of how HBCU educations are made the butt of jokes by graduates of PWIs, even those who come from the same racial community. Even if it was simply a joke made in poor taste, Shaq feeling as though it was okay for him to poke fun at the academic integrity of an HBCU during a nationally televised show that was meant to uplift HBCUs shows how little regard some people pay to them in educational circles.
This isn’t to place blame solely on Shaq however, as the idea that he alluded to is one that was likely perpetuated by many students and instructors who counseled him on how to proceed after failing biology at LSU. While it’s great that HBCUs are getting shine on the biggest of stages such as All-Star Weekend, there’s still a long way to go before the stigmas that have plagued HBCUs historically can be properly addressed.