Why Morehouse Must Transform Into A 21st Century HBCU

Pierce Otlhogile-Gordon, Ph.D.
8 min readMay 4, 2019

Morehouse intends to enroll transgender men next year. It’s an opportunity to transform HBCUs as we know them.

I admit it. I was attracted to exclusivity.

When I applied to college, I had to be convinced to attend Morehouse College. At the time, I was on the way towards an illustrious career in engineering, and Georgia Tech or the University of Michigan’s prestigious undergraduate programs held all of my attention. I thought to myself: professionally, what could a small all-male black college do for me?

My opinion changed when I stepped foot on the campus. I was allured by the students’ character, by the opportunity to learn from aspiring Black men, and to be a part of the “Morehouse Mystique”. I remember Morehouse sold a different type of exclusivity: as one of the top HBCUs, it offered an opportunity to transform into a better self. The message was clear: when you leave this institution, you’ll be a part of a special community known for changing the world. As an alumnus, they expected nothing less than the same from me.

Little did I know I’d work to change the institution right back.

Who is an institution for?

If you’ve been paying attention to HBCU news recently, you might have heard about Morehouse and its brand new transgender policy. The policy is clearly making waves: for some, it’s a welcome change; for others, it doesn’t go far enough. For Morehouse graduates old enough to remember, the most recent national news related to this topic wasn’t as progressive. As outlined by Tre’Vell Anderson in Out Magazine,

‘My freshman year, the college instituted an “appropriate attire policy.” This dress code, which banned sagging and limited wearing hats and durags among other things, became a national news story because of another tenant that restricted wearing “clothing usually worn by women.”….

A year later, Vibe published an article about a handful of current and former students who shared their experiences navigating the homophobic and transphobic environment of the school, and broader society, as people whose gender presentations sometime bucked…