Since its debut, BET’s The Quad has been the topic of debate for both fans and critics alike. The show, which focuses on life at the fictional Georgia A&M University, seemingly offers a glimpse into life on the campus of an HBCU, but many have said that its portrayals grossly exaggerate what HBCU life is really about. Now its strongest rebuke has come in the form of a three-page letter from Hampton University’s president.
HBCU Digest published a copy of the Feb. 3 letter penned by Hampton President William R. Harvey on Hampton letterhead and addressed to BET President Debra Lee, in which Harvey slams the series for its misrepresentation of HBCU leadership, student culture and the challenges that HBCUs face.
From his letter:
Devoid of any reference to academics, The Quad is about a president who is promiscuous, trustees who are unwilling to deal with a rogue band director, and a band director who condones criminal activity on the part of his drum major. 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.
We cannot afford this kind of storytelling. It amounts to the type of ‘fake news’ that is prevalent today. You see, all that most people know about HBCUs is what they see on television. What I saw on BET February 1st was not accurate; rather, it was a bogus representation of very important and historic institutions.
HBCU Digest’s Jarrett Carter Sr. agrees with Harvey’s assessment, writing that the show has “attracted a growing audience by being well-stocked on drama, but low on its promise to showcase ‘real HBCU culture’ through Georgia A&M University’s mantra of ‘Pride, Tradition and Excellence.’”
Several HBCU presidents have reportedly written to Harvey and commended him for writing the letter in response to the negative images presented in The Quad.
Carter writes that the reactions to the show were easy to see coming. From HBCU Digest:
We knew from the first episode that this was not a good look for our schools.
We knew that when actors began defending “The Quad” as a “human” show that just happens to take place at an HBCU, we were in for a controversial debut season.
And now we know that the G.O.A.T. of HBCU leadership hates it, along with a growing delegation of presidential peers. Only one thing can save “The Quad” as a potential vehicle of support for black colleges; all of its creative directors and producers need to disclose just how bad this show is going to be for the remainder of the season, apologize publicly and commit to a stronger, more representative second season with thorough and unchallenged review of consultants who can do what test audiences obviously didn’t; warn BET about the hell they were walking into during Black History Month.
I personally have not watched the show, but I’ve seen enough criticism of it to want to stay away from it. Then again, when it comes to BET, I never, ever forgave them for that Cita the Cyber Chickenhead fiasco.
Read more at HBCU Digest.