BET’s new show scripted show about a fictional Black college, The Quad, has generated some positive reviews. But its storylines that include a shady band director, a strip club-owning alumnus, a college president with secrets and issues of her own have angered others. Hampton University’s president, William R. Harvey had several issues with the show after seeing the first extended episode and fired off an angry letter to BET’s president Debra L. Lee.
While Black Twitter reminded Harvey that the show was fictional, Lee took the criticism seriously and responded to Harvey, as did the show’s star, FAMU grad Anika Noni Rose.
Just after the show premiered, Harvey sent Lee a scathing letter criticizing the show. He called it “a sad, derisive and degenerating story,” and “an incredibly disparaging depiction of the HBCUs I know and love.”
Harvey continued: “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.”
EBONY caught up with Lee at BET Presents The American Black Film Festival Honors to get her thoughts on Harvey’s criticism.
“I talked to Dr. Harvey the other day and we had a good conversation. He started off by saying conversation is key, and I listened to him and he listened to me. I respect his opinion,” Lee said. “My point that I emphasized was that this was a fictional story. It’s not representing any particular college.
Fictional TV has drama, you have good guys and bad guys. We had a good conversation and I hope students, administrators and parents will take the issues that we’re dealing with on The Quad seriously and discuss them during and after the show, because we are dealing with serious issues that happen on all campuses, not just HBCUs.”
Rose, herself an HBCU grad, told Ebony:
“I think what’s important when we’re referencing that letter is that this is someone who saw one episode and made a lot of opinions off of one episode.”
“The show is a fiction, but the show is a fiction based in fact. A lot of the things that we are dealing with and talking about are taken straight from the headlines of what has happened at schools,” she explained. “So to pretend that these things don’t happen is ridiculous.”
“It’s a drama, it’s not a comedy, so things are going to be larger than life. Things are going to be drawn out in a very different way, and perhaps the show is not for that person. But let’s be clear it is not a documentary,” Rose said. “Our shows have to be more positive, more respectable, more high-end that anything else that is seen,” she told EBONY.
“I understand what that’s from. It’s because we aren’t seen enough, so we don’t have enough sides of us [shown] to sometimes feel comfortable. But if we’re going to show humanity and human behavior, we cannot only show the glossy parts. We cannot only show the PhD, full family, living on a hill with a fence. We can’t only show that because that’s not all of reality, that’s not all of humanity, and it’s dishonest to show that one side.”
“It’s really important to be clear that we are showing human life. Women do run institutions, women do have sex, hazing does happen at schools—all schools, not just HBCUs—people do affairs, it happens. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.”
To the Quad’s critics who have a problem with the show, the actress has some simple advice: “If it’s not for you, turn the station.”
Celebrities Who Attended HBCUs
1. Lance Gross - HowardSource:ATLPics.Net 1 of 30
2. Spike Lee - Morehouse CollegeSource:Courtesy Netflix 2 of 30
3. Diddy - Howard UniversitySource:ATLPics.Net 3 of 30
4. LaLa - Howard UniversitySource:FreddyO.com 4 of 30
5. Erykah Badu -Grambling State UniversitySource:ATLPics.Net 5 of 30
6. Common - Florida A&M UniversitySource:Getty 6 of 30
7. Eva Marcille - Clark Atlanta UniversitySource:Getty 7 of 30
8. Director Debbie Allen (L) and sister actress Phylicia Rashad - Howard UniversitySource:Getty 8 of 30
9. Wanda Sykes - Hampton UniversitySource:Getty 9 of 30
10. Anika Noni Rose - FAMUSource:Getty 10 of 30
11. David Banner - Southern UniversitySource:Getty 11 of 30
12. Yolanda Adams - TSUSource:@arturoholmesphotos 12 of 30
13. Lionel Richie (Left) - Tuskegee UniversitySource:Getty 13 of 30
14. Gladys Knight - Shaw UniversitySource:Getty 14 of 30
15. Keenan Ivory Wayans - Tuskegee UniversitySource:Getty 15 of 30
16. Rick Ross - Albany State UniversitySource:Getty 16 of 30
17. Toni Braxton - Bowie State UniversitySource:Victoria 17 of 30
18. Wale - Bowie State UniversitySource:Radio One Digital 18 of 30
19. Jerry Rice - Mississippi Valley State UniversitySource:Getty 19 of 30
20. Kym Whitley - Fisk UniversitySource:Kym Whitley 20 of 30
21. Keshia Knight Pullium - SpelmanSource:ATT 21 of 30
22. Michael Strahan - TSUSource:Women's Empowerment 2018 22 of 30
23. K. Michelle - FAMUSource:@PhotosByBeanz 23 of 30
24. Terrence J - North Carolina A&T University.24 of 30
25. Ruben Studdard25 of 30
26. Kamala Harris - Howard UniversitySource:AP Photo/Andrew Harnik 26 of 30
27. Oprah Winfrey - Tennessee State UniversitySource:FreddyO.com 27 of 30
28. Anthony Anderson - Howard UniversitySource:Getty 28 of 30
29. Samuel L Jackson - Morehouse CollegeSource:(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic) 29 of 30
30. Tom Joyner - TuskegeeSource:Radio 1 Digital - Charlotte 30 of 30