Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
“Miss Bolling: The Faculty has decided to ask you to have the girls’ rooms given a thorough cleaning this week with a view of trying to get rid of the bed bugs that are to be found in all the buildings. It is not to the credit of the school and much to its hurt to have the constant report of bed bugs existing in the rooms. The girls not only talk about the matter but report it to their parents, and it brings disgrace to the institution. The cleanliness of the rooms is in your hands and we hold you responsible for this. Miss Murray says that she has spoken to you about the matter several times and given you a girl to do the work, but it has not been done. I have told Miss Murray to let you have as many girls as you desire. Dr. Dillon will help you in making any mixture to help eradicate the bed bugs. This must be attended to right away. I wish to have the building cleaned this week. The cleaning must be done once a week during the remainder of the term so that we can get rid of this pest. In this connection I wish to say that it will amount to nothing without your remaining constantly with them while they are doing the cleaning.” -Booker T. Washington, “May 3rd, 1892”      
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

The management and condition of a university’s residential housing and its facilities is as important as the university’s academic programs. This is why faculty and staff members alike play an equally important role in the success of an institution. There are several noteworthy considerations in Mr. Washington’s communiqué to Miss Bolling. First, it did not matter how great the instruction might have been at Tuskegee Institute (University) if the ‘daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee’ not only talk[ed] about the matter but report[ed] it to their parents[;] it brings disgrace to the institution.” (The concern and care that an institution shows beyond the classroom is often the most important consideration that parents deliberate upon when deciding to send their children to a university.) Second, it was not Mr. Washington that was to be held chiefly responsible but the person who possessed oversight of the area. (Indeed the university president possesses ultimate responsibility in the governance of a university. However, he or she must rely heavily upon those within his or her charge to ensure that their areas reflect the expectations of the president. Thus, Mr. Washington’s reminder to colleague: “We hold you responsible for this.”) Third and last, Mr. Washington had not only provided additional resources to assist with this problem but was also willing to provide more “to help eradicate the bed bugs.” Moreover, he provided Miss Bolling with first-rate management advice: “…it will amount to nothing without your remaining constantly with them while they are doing the cleaning.” (What you expect, you must inspect. And if one has units that you are being held responsible for then it is not unwise to personally inspect those units so that you are not held accountable for the performance of others.) Let no university employee believe that his or her work does not impact the success of an institution. For the individual’s success will ultimately become the university’s success.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 


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2 responses to “Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

  1. Ria Chandler

    It is very difficult for me to read these commentaries each day. I have to be very aware of my surroundings as I read as I am sometimes drawn to tears or at other times I am moved to shout!!! As an employee of an institution of higher learning and as a parent who just dropped my son off at college, today’s lesson speaks volumes. Continue educating us Mr. President!!!


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