Trump-esque dare led me to convention floor reporting

By Lawrence Rigby

CLEVELAND – Political conventions are an interesting phenomenon.

The RNC convention is no exception. And, with the coronation of Donald Trump, now the standard bearer of the Republican Party, it's safe to say I've seen my share of the unlikely. It's my first convention, but I have that tingly feeling I'll be attending many more.

As a field reporter for USA Today covering protest on the streets of here, it was equally unlikely I would get a floor pass for the convention. Most networks do not get them, and the ones that do, don't just hand them out to any staffer, much less the new draft pick. Convention floor passes are reserved for journalism's elite. For veterans who've earned their bylines and their unnamed sources.

Well, in Trump-esque fashion, I got one.

The political editor at USA Today took his pass from around his neck, handed it to me as he said, "Go cut your teeth into some unsuspecting politician."

My strategy was simple: Gov. Mike Pence was the Wednesday keynote speaker, so I would go stand next to the Indiana delegation hoping to get commentary and video of their reaction once his address concluded. I got more than that.

Resounding boos for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Interviews with Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Donald Trump Jr. All of it happened in the matter of minutes of each other. If only everyday reporting could move as quickly.

Between the speakers, I chatted with Gayle King, Lester Holt and David Muir; exchanged my fraternal grip with Roland Martin; and ran behind Karl Rove, twice – who noticeably picked up his pace on my third attempt.

I'll get you next time, Karl. In 2020, I'll be waiting on you at the door.

Cheers to my first convention. The 2016 RNC convention. The coronation of Donald J. Trump convention.

Oh, how unconventional.

The writer (at right in top photo) is a 2015 Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications graduate and former Hampton University student government association president.

Black colleges must retool to stay competitive, says RNC panel

By Tiara Sargeant

CLEVELAND – Many Historically Black Colleges and Universities must change their business models in order to stay competitive and viable in the higher education industry, said moderators and panelists at a Republican National Convention-related event Thursday.

Many professors at HBCUs are underpaid, said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Andrew Clark Jr. (pictured far right in photo), a 2013 Howard University graduate, said during an exchange with an audience member that low faculty pay and punishing workloads at his campus created perceptions that professors don't care, or students or professors are not having great relationships.

Meanwhile, numerous so-called PWIS's – Predominantly White Institutions – said the panelists, are appealing to African-American student prospects to come and diversify those campuses.

Restructured business models and more money must be invested in the 107 HBCUs, said the panelists, in order to stay competitive with all 4,700 public and private colleges and universities. Taylor noted that Hampton University, a top-tier HBCU, prospers because its President, William R. Harvey, Ed.D., 100-percent owner of a Pepsi bottler in Michigan, applies corporate-style management of his Virginia campus.

Other participants in "EEO: Education, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity" session held at Holy Trinity Church here were Jill Homan, Republican National Committeewoman for District of Columbia and founder of City GOP, and panelists Christine Brooks, CEO, Brooks and Associates, and also former education adviser to Jeb Bush; Antonio Campbell, board member, The Crossroads School, Baltimore.

The writer (pictured left in photo), a Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications student, also served as a panelist.

Hampton U. official, Trump supporter, GOP change agent

By Wayne Dawkins

Bill Thomas maintained order.

Thomas, associate vice president for governmental relations at Hampton University, is a delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

"I am a designated Trump delegate and I am tasked to make sure there is no opposition," he said. "I went to all of the Virginia Delegation committee meetings. We can't have what [former Virginia Attorney Gen.] Ken Cuccinelli did Monday." Cuccinelli and delegates from nine states attempted to unbind delegate votes for Donald Trump. GOP leaders quashed the revolt.

Trump was officially nominated Tuesday night as Republican candidate for president during a roll call vote of state delegations. In November, Trump will face presumptive Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Cleveland is Thomas' second RNC convention. He is representing the 3rd Congressional District. Thomas said, in 2012 in Tampa, he was an alternate delegate.

During a telephone interview, Thomas stated his No. 1 issue: "The Republican Party hopes that under Donald Trump it can bring inclusive-based principles and values. Black votes, white votes, all votes matter.

"The GOP appreciates blacks' concerns. They have reached out to me, because that's my issue. I'm getting more responses from the Trump organization than from the Virginia delegation. I have focused on HBCU priorities and balancing inequities in education."

Thomas also said "I supported Trump when there were 16 Republican presidential candidates. I support Trump because we need a change in the party.

"At this stage in my life – 64 years – I have never seen such racial division that has separated us among educated people. There's a lack of understanding in what we want is what others want.

"My priorities are family, education and economic development, not the right to vote or civil rights activity.

"Dividing is not going to work.

"I've known Trump for more than 20 years and he will not be like that."

Thomas, a radio commentator who is heard Fridays on WHRV-FM [NPR] "Another View" said this about Melania Trump's much-criticized and ridiculed speech: "They made a mistake. They need to own up to it and move on."

The writer is a professor at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.