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Community Mobilizes to Save Holy Names University for Students and Future Students



Many Oaklanders are committed to preserving the Holy Names campus as a diverse center for higher education that grants bachelors’ degrees and trains teachers, health professionals and social workers.

By Ken Epstein

As Holy Names University in Oakland struggles with deep financial difficulties, local elected officials and community leaders are coming forward with offers to help find ways to resolve the problems and save the city’s primary remaining university.

Rumors are swirling around the campus that the university could close at the end of the school year in May 2023, dispersing many of its students to colleges in nearby cities.

Some Oakland leaders are exploring alternatives that would benefit the Oakland community and its students. If HNU actually closes, some are looking at turning the campus into a home for one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which are known for welcoming white, Latino and Asian-American students, as well as African American students.

Many Oaklanders are committed to preserving the Holy Names campus as a diverse center for higher education that grants bachelors’ degrees and trains teachers, health professionals and social workers. Several people told the Oakland Post they will do whatever they can to prevent the beautiful hill campus from being sold to developers to build exclusive private residences.

The Oakland Post attempted several times to contact Steven Borg, chairperson of the HNU Board of Trustees, but was unable to reach him before the newspaper’s deadline. In addition to his position on the board, Borg is an independent marketing consultant.

Here are the questions the Post texted to Borg:

  • There are people in the community, including political leaders of the City of Oakland, who want to support HNU to resolve these issues.  Have you met with them, or do you plan to meet with them?
  • I have also heard that the Board dissolved its fundraising committee five years ago. Is that true? Why was that?
  • Do you have fundraising plans?
  • Will you talk to city officials who want to help?
  • What steps do you plan to take to protect HNU and its longstanding role as an institution that is crucial to the education of thousands of local students and educational and medical professionals that serve the community?
  • There are rumors that some are considering offering the HNU campus to real estate developers. Are you considering that?

At a meeting with the Holy Names community Thursday afternoon, Board President Borg said that HNU would continue offering classes for the Spring semester but cannot say anything else. He also announced that the university’s president, Michael Groener, was on leave of absence, and Sister Carol Sellman, long-time HNU administrator, has taken over as “Senior Administrator.”

Steps are already being taken to mobilize support for HNU. Oakland Councilmember Carroll Fife and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan have introduced a resolution, scheduled to be heard by the City Council at its December 20 meeting, “Recognizing The Enormous Importance of Holy Names University to the Oakland Community and Urging the University’s Administration to Work Collaboratively with Faculty, Staff, Students, Elected Officials, and Community Partners to Resolve the Issues Facing the Institution with the Goal and Intention of Maintaining It as an Independent Institution.”

Aniya Bankston, head of the HNU Black Student Union (BSU), and a second-year pre-nursing student, said she had some idea of the problems at HNU over the past few months but that there was a lack of transparency that left most students feeling insecure about what is happening at the institution.

“If I weren’t in the BSU and student government, I would feel blindsided,” explaining that many students are fearing that Holy Names was on the verge of moving or shutting down, she said.

She said that she and some other students are willing to do what they can to support the survival of Holy Names during this difficult time, though many are worried about their educational futures and are busy filling out applications and exploring ways to transition to other educational opportunities.

Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, who was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters from HNU, spoke to Borg and Groener about presenting some financial solutions and a plan to keep the HNU programs in Oakland adjacent to Golden Gate Academy where Cobb graduated.

Cobb said he will meet with the students, the governing group of sisters and the faculty members to present plans to bring investors to the campus. He also said he has received inquiries about possible city, county and national non-profit institutes seeking to support, create a joint venture or bring an Historic Black College Campus to that site.

“I want to reassure the sisters that the university’s spirit and mission of student involvement in Tutwiler, Miss., would be maintained by partnering with a Black university,” he said. “We could also involve the Peter Claver Society and others to seek the sisters’ support for the educational endowment’s continuous commitment to diversity since HNU’s student mix is nearly two-thirds Black and Brown. I am hopeful and look forward to meeting with the students. When I was the commencement speaker, I challenged the students to continue the struggle to keep HNU the most diverse college in America.”

The post Community Mobilizes to Save Holy Names University for Students and Future Students first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.


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