Trump hosted black college presidents in the Oval Office, something Barack Obama never got around to.
To say that President Trump’s immediate predecessor had a dicey relationship with historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, would be putting it mildly.
President Obama’s first budget proposal cut funds for black colleges, which mostly lack big endowments and depend on the government for a large share of their revenue. The Obama administration also stiffened eligibility requirements for loan programs that HBCU students, who tend to be low-income, are likelier to use. Following the changes, some 28,000 students at black colleges were denied loans and enrollment fell. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, spoke regularly at black colleges without being booed or heckled.
This history provides useful context for events that unfolded on two HBCU campuses last week. At Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, Mr. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers as she attempted to give a commencement address. A few days later, an invitation to Republican Sen. John Cornyn to address Texas Southern University’s graduating class was rescinded out of concern that the Texas lawmaker might encounter similar treatment—or worse.
“We got into some safety issues,” Austin Lane, TSU’s president, told me. “I got a sense the students were fine. Some of them would have protested, but that’s a given. You’re never going to find a speaker that makes everyone happy. The problem was this outside influence.” Mr. Lane said the school got word “that people would be coming in and they were going to cause trouble. They contacted us, these black militant groups, these Black Lives Matter groups—official and unofficial. And then you had these white groups who were coming to protest the protesters. So it was no longer about a commencement.”
Mr. Lane explained that....
Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.