In her very first meeting in her new gig, embattled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Howard University on Thursday to meet with university leaders.
The meeting at the historically black university, founded in 1867, was one where she was welcomed—at least by the administration—unlike at the Washington, D.C., public school where she was denied entrance by protesters the very next day, the Washington Post reports.
DeVos, who barely made it to her position (her confirmation was tied in the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie), may be making good on Donald Trump’s reported interest in supporting HBCUs.
Yet, although Howard’s president, Wayne A.I. Frederick, said via Twitter that DeVos and the school’s reps had a “great conversation,” many students and even student leaders were skeptical of both DeVos and the HU administration’s motives.
Howard is unique in that it receives special appropriations from the federal government, although it is a private university.
The official newspaper of Howard, The Hilltop, noted that it was not given details of the meeting, either. “To confirm: The meeting held this afternoon was a private meeting. No further details have yet been released on what was discussed,” read a statement from the newspaper’s official Twitter account.
Student Government Association President Allyson Carpenter, who was not at the meeting, also weighed in in a series of Tweets. And she was not impressed.
Carpenter, who also spoke with the Washington Post, noted that most students (and apparently the school newspaper) didn’t know about the meeting until after it was over. She told the Post said that without a transcript of what was said, most students were left in the dark about what was discussed.
“Howard is the Mecca,” said Carpenter, “a university known for its academic excellence. I know this administration has a knack for—how can I say this—taking pictures with the right people, I guess.”
Carpenter also offered that the meeting could have been the result of Howard alum Omarosa Manigault’s role in the Trump administration. Manigault, communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison, is reportedly drafting an executive order for the president to support HBCUs.
President Frederick released a statement after the meeting, which read in part:
We have a long-standing, successful relationship with the Department of Education and I look forward to advancing this relationship under the Secretary’s leadership. Our conversation today was a very meaningful one and I welcome the opportunity to continue discussing the many ways we can work together to forward the work of higher education, specifically that of Howard University, Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science, and HBCUs in general.
DeVos, a billionaire who is best-known as an ardent supporter of charter schools and is viewed as anti-teachers unions, also released a statement, saying in part, “It was a pleasure to meet with Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick and several student leaders this morning. We had a robust discussion around the many challenges facing higher education and the important role of HBCUs.”
Read more at the Washington Post.