College can be a life-changing experience for a young person, especially when they have a program that fits their passion.
Andre Young, also known as the hip-hop master producer Dr. Dre, has pledged $35 million of his own money in a $70 million collaboration with producer and co-founder of Interscope records Jimmy Iovine to begin a program in his and Jimmy Iovine’s name at the University of Southern California. The Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation will launch in the Fall of 2014 with 25 students, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But, Dr. Dre’s contribution to the school has come under scrutiny because he has not pledged his money to a black school or historically black college and/or university where that kind of money would completely revive some institutions and make a complete transformation of others. USC is around the corner and down the street from his humble beginnings in Compton, California, where he successfully launched himself into the Hip-Hop stratosphere through the rap group NWA.
Dre told the New York Times:
“I feel like this is the biggest, most exciting and probably the most important thing that I’ve done in my career.”
The program is a dream come true for anyone wanting to pursue a career in ANY area of production. “The four-year undergraduate program aims to foster entrepreneurship and bridge entertainment, engineering, computer science, fine arts, graphic design, business and leadership training.”
But now, something that he feels so passionate about is being tarnished by criticism of his donation to a school that as of Fall 2012, black students only made up five percent of its student body. Walter Kimbrough is one of the youngest college presidents in the country at Dillard University, and is often referred to as the “hip hop President.”
He stopped in his tracks when he saw that Dr. Dre was donating the largest contribution of any African American to any school in the country. Not even Bill and Camille Cosby have given such a significant amount of money to one school. So, why is it that Kimbrough finds it necessary to express his concern.
“USC is a great institution, no question. But it has a $3.5-billion endowment, the 21st largest in the nation and much more than every black college — combined. Less than 20% of USC’s student body qualifies for federal Pell Grants, given to students from low-income families, compared with two-thirds of those enrolled at black colleges. USC has also seen a steady decrease in black student enrollment, which is now below 5%.”
While those numbers all make sense, should we hold our feet to the fire on decisions like this one? Should we be obligated to connect with the HBCU’s whether we’re alumni of the schools or not? Jimmy Iovine’s daughter is an alum of USC, so there’s a connection for him and he was their keynote speaker for this year’s graduation. Kimbrough went on to say:
“I hope this groundbreaking gift inspires other celebrities and musical artists to make similar donations to higher education. And that they will consider doing it in a manner that will be truly transformative. This gift is gravy for USC; for a black college, it would transform not just individuals but whole institutions and communities.”
It is our hope that Dre will do his part to recruit black students for the program that is in an area near and dear to his heart. We would love to hear what he has to say about his personal reasoning behind his donation. But what’s ironic about Kimbrough’s statements is that he has never attended an HBCU himself. While his editorial gives great insight into his criticism of Dre’s choice, it’s ironic that he never chose to be educated at an HBCU. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate at University of Georgia, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Georgia State University, respectively. Go figure.
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