Hampton University President William Harvey has ripped BET President Debra Lee for the cable channel’s new series “The Quad,” which Harvey criticized for depicting historically black colleges and universities in a negative light.
The HBCU Digest recently published a scathing three-page letter Harvey wrote earlier this month to Lee about the new drama, which shows life on campus at the fictional Georgia A&M University.
“What I saw on BET February 1st was not accurate; rather, it was a bogus representation of very important and historic institutions,” Harvey wrote. “The Quad will lead many to believe that HBCUs exist because of their marching bands; that our presidents are unethical; that our boards are dysfunctional and have misplaced priorities; that our faculty, students and administrators are driven by sex, alcohol, marijuana, low self-esteem, parties and a preoccupation with music; that it is acceptable to disrespect women; that university policy can be set by a band director; and that there are no standards of conduct or penalties for bad behavior. This depiction seems more analogous to a disgruntled, adolescent and unrealistic point of view that some may have. It also feeds a false narrative about the irrelevance of HBCUs.”
Harvey said HBCUs “cannot afford this kind of storytelling” because most people have little knowledge about the institutions and form their views of them based on what they see on TV.
Several HBCU presidents have written Harvey in support of his letter, while Lee and Anika Noni Rose, one of the show’s stars, defend the show, the Digest reported.
Lee said Monday in an Ebony interview that she has talked to Harvey and they had a good conversation.
“He started off by saying conversation is key, and I listened to him and he listened to me. I respect his opinion,” Lee said. “My point that I emphasized was that this was a fictional story. It’s not representing any particular college. Fictional TV has drama, you have good guys and bad guys. I hope students, administrators and parents will take the issues that we’re dealing with on ‘The Quad’ seriously and discuss them during and after the show, because we are dealing with serious issues that happen on all campuses, not just HBCUs.”
Rose, a graduate of Florida A&M University, stressed that Harvey formed his opinion about the show after watching just one episode.
“The show is a fiction, but the show is a fiction based in fact,” Rose said. “A lot of the things that we are dealing with and talking about are taken straight from the headlines of what has happened at schools. So to pretend that these things don’t happen is ridiculous.
“It’s a drama, it’s not a comedy, so things are going to be larger than life,” she said. “Things are going to be drawn out in a very different way, and perhaps the show is not for that person. But let’s be clear, it is not a documentary.”