10:03am

Thu May 23, 2013
Arts & Life

HBCU President Asks Dr. Dre, Why Not Us?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Moving on to other news in education, last week hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine announced that they would be giving the University of Southern California $70 million to create a degree that will blend business, marketing, product development, design and liberal arts.

Many are applauding this donation, not least at USC, but some are asking, why not give the money to a struggling school? Why not give the money to an historically black college or university, particularly since these institutions likely educated many of the fans who've supported Dr. Dre's career?

Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University - that's an HBCU in New Orleans - wrote about this in an op-ed for the L.A. Times and he's with us now to tell us more about it.

Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

WALTER KIMBROUGH: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I can imagine that there are a lot of people who would say it's his money, he can do what he wants with it. So why do you even think you should have anything to say about it? So why do you?

KIMBROUGH: Right. And that's one of the things I pointed out in the piece, that it really is his money. He can do exactly what he wants to do, and even looking at some reasons why he may have made that investment there, linking it to the business.

But just that gift was interesting to me on a number of levels. First of all, just the amount of money and the reports about the gift. No one talked about this being a historic gift. It is the most money given by an African-American to higher education, $35 million. Most people think of the $20 million that the Cosbys gave the Spellman College in 1988. USC also got a gift from an alumna, Verna Dauterive, of $30 million. So this gift from a hip-hop icon that is now the biggest gift in higher education, to me, is just outstanding and is fabulous.

MARTIN: So - and it's more than Oprah Winfrey and, obviously, Oprah Winfrey is a well-known philanthropist and very committed to education, but you're saying that this is even beyond the gift that Bill Cosby and his wife Camille gave to Spellman. Even in inflation adjusted dollars, it's bigger than the amount that Oprah Winfrey gave Morehouse College, has given Morehouse over the years. Certainly, much larger than Sean Diddy Combs gave...

KIMBROUGH: Right.

MARTIN: ...to Howard University, which he attended briefly before he left to launch his career. He gave them half a million dollars. So it's an historic gift, but even with that, it's still his money. Why do you think it should have gone to an HBCU in particular?

KIMBROUGH: Well, not necessarily. I'm just looking at - if you're looking at his career, we're on the 25th anniversary of the release of the N.W.A. album, "Straight Outta Compton," with the seminal hit that comes off of that album, "F Tha Police," so you have someone who comes out of a culture that really challenged the establishment and then the money goes to an institution that's the 21st richest in the nation. You start to ask, you know, is this more perpetuation of privilege? That's the kind of issue that I would raise with it, too.

And it's not that it has to be an HBCU. I didn't call to say, oh, you should have given that money to me, because those philanthropic gifts are relational. You have to know the people and have those kinds of relationships and so I understand that, but we have to start looking at and listening to some of your interview with the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. If we're going to address the broader issues in our society, we've got to start putting resources to those who have the most need and this gift does not really benefit those with the most need.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask...

KIMBROUGH: So it's just a question I have.

MARTIN: I have to ask a sensitive question, though, which is we've talked with a number of leaders of historically black colleges and universities, you know, and certainly many of their graduates over the course of time. And one of the issues that a number of people have highlighted is a lack of administrative excellence. There are some people who say that some of these institutions are just not well run and that people would not trust them with a major gift. And I understand that that must be painful to hear and it may even be a stereotype, but there are those who feel that way and have had experiences to back it up. So I wanted to ask whether you think that that might have been part of the calculation.

KIMBROUGH: I don't think that was a part of the calculation. I mean, I do understand there are situations like that, that we can all document and so I wouldn't say you give that kind of gift to any kind of institution. You give that to an institution that has proven it can do a good job with those resources and be good stewards of those resources. So you know, I completely understand that. That's not an issue for me that people would ask that kind of question because I think it is a fair question and we have to understand the kind of work that we do administratively will impact those kinds of gifts.

But I don't think that was a, you know, an issue in this case. I think it's based on the relationships. Jimmy Iovine had a relationship with USC. His daughter went to USC, so it makes a lot of sense for me that he would give that money to that institution and...

MARTIN: Well, he didn't go to USC, but he lived nearby. He grew up nearby in Compton, as of course, I think most people would know. You make the point that Dr. Dre's wealth was generated by black hip-hop fans, but you know, fans of all races buy rap music and, presumably, African-American students do attend USC, too. Do you think part of the message here is to say that all of these institutions belong to everybody now?

KIMBROUGH: Maybe. I don't know if I look at it like that. I mean, if you look at hip-hop as a whole, it really is, you know, the development of black youth culture that really has become this purchasable good in terms of music and so everything related to hip-hop is really based on black youth culture. So the wealth that is generated, not only based on the support of people buying and consuming the product, but it's about the lived experiences of people of color that has become a purchasable good. So that's part of it, as well, for me.

But, you know, as I'm saying it, a broader issue for me is that - how do we start to get those who have that kind of wealth to look, to say, how do I get the most return on the investment? And you can a bigger return at an institution that has more low income students who don't have the kind of resources to attend college and really change our community. So that's the question that I'm really trying to get out there, for us to say, how do we - you know, let's look at our philanthropy and target it to really benefit the masses.

MARTIN: Why do you think it is that other successful African-American alumni have not donated as generously to these institutions as...

KIMBROUGH: Yeah.

MARTIN: Why do you think that is?

KIMBROUGH: I don't think - you know, honestly, I don't think we've done as good enough of a job to cultivate those relationships. As a consultant friend of mine says, philanthropy is a one-on-one sport, so it takes numbers of visits to cultivate those relationships. And so people give to people and not necessarily institutions. And so we have to put the work into doing that. Sometimes, it's difficult to have the kind of resources to invest in building the kinds of fundraising teams.

I mean, for example, USC has over 400 fundraisers alone, so that's a massive...

MARTIN: How many do you have?

KIMBROUGH: ...number of people working to do that kind of a job.

MARTIN: How many do you have?

KIMBROUGH: Oh, I have about 10.

MARTIN: OK. Including - are you part of that team? Presumably...

KIMBROUGH: Oh, I have to be.

MARTIN: ...you're fundraiser-in-chief.

KIMBROUGH: Right. You have to do it all, so I can't just be the one to come in and close a big deal. I have to - you know, I'm out with all kind of level gifts.

MARTIN: Before we let you go...

KIMBROUGH: That's the part...

MARTIN: ...what kind of reaction have you gotten to the piece?

KIMBROUGH: It's a range of people. Some people will say, you know, you get the criticism like, he can give his money where he wants to, and, you know, black colleges are underperforming. And so I hear all of those. But then there are a lot of people saying, you really just asked a question that a lot of people thought, but you sort of asked it out loud and in public. Like, yeah, really, you know, when people think about it, like, yeah, that then really make a lot of sense. But like I said, I understand the motives that were used to make that gift. I just want people to have a broader sense of philanthropy and how gifts like that - I mean, if you think about a gift like that, $35 million - if it goes to Dillard or a place that's still recovering from Hurricane Katrina eight years ago, I would increase my endowment by 50 percent right off the bat.

MARTIN: Walter Kimbrough...

KIMBROUGH: I mean, that's the difference.

MARTIN: Thank you, Dr. Kimbrough. Walter Kimbrough is the president of Dillard University. He joined us from New Orleans. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

KIMBROUGH: All right. Anytime. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Up next, Miami native, Pitbull, is a global music mega-star. He seems nice enough, so why the tough guy stage name?

PITBULL: That's where Pitbull comes from. The fight. You know, I'm in love with the fight, but at the same time, pit bulls are illegal in Miami, so that makes me the only pit bull with papers. You know, the only legal pit bull.

MARTIN: Pitbull tells us more about his life, music and his part in the new animated film, "Epic." That's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.