Should Bethune-Cookman honor Governor Scott with his record?
By Roger Caldwell
Controversy is brewing at Bethune-Cookman University, as to the decision to honor Governor Rick Scott with the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Leadership Award. There is a statewide petition being circulated that states as a premier Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Florida, Bethune-Cookman should be embarrassed by their decision to celebrate and honor our governor. Governor Scott has a terrible record in the Black community, and during his tenure in office he has ignored Black problems, and conditions.
The students, the faculty, and Black community activist groups have been quiet with the treatment of the Black community in Florida by the governor. It is appalling that Bethune-Cookman is honoring our governor with his dreadful record toward the Black community. During both of his campaigns, Governor Scott made no attempts to promise the Black community anything, and as a result he was not obligated to give us anything.
From the very beginning of his campaign, his focus has been the Tea Party, Republicans, conservatives, and the oligarchs. As a governor in Florida, his companies are making billions of dollars in the natural gas industry in the state. He is breaking the ethics laws in the state, because it is a conflict of interest for him to own stock in companies that do business with state agencies.
Nevertheless, this great institution has decided to honor a governor, who has spent the majority of time in office trying to restrict voting rights to Blacks, minorities, and young people. His goal was to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, and make it harder to vote. He also cut voting hours, and some voters in the inner cities were forced to wait in lines for four to six hours to vote.
During each election year, Scott has tried to purge voters from the voting files, and cut early voting hours to include “Soul to the Polls,” a Sunday that Blacks vote at higher rates than any other early voting day. He has also refused to restore rights of ex-felons who have served their time, and the majorities of the felons are Black. With all the qualified African American lawyers in the state, he has only appointed one Black judge, and only one Black appointed to his cabinet.
Our governor’s record toward African Americans is atrocious, and he opposes expanding Medicaid to millions of low-income and minority residents in Florida. In 2011, he cut all HBCU funding including Bethune-Cookman University, and in 2014 he reinstated the funding so now we give him an award. Maybe our university leaders have forgotten that our governor was charged with a $1.7 billion federal government fraud case fine, which was paid by a company that he owns.
It makes no sense to honor a man and his administration that has never promoted and supported the rights of the Black community. His record consistently portrays him as an enemy of our community, and he should not receive an award where Mary McLeod Bethune worked every day of her life for the advancement of the Black community. Governor Scott does not reflect our ideals, and the students, faculty and alumni must speak up and stop Scott from receiving a leadership award.