Dr. Commodore publishes article on HBCUs selection of Black women presidents in Hypatia

Losing Herself to Save Herself: Perspectives on Conservatism and Concepts of Self for Black Women Aspiring to the HBCU Presidency


Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) often come under criticism for being havens of conservatism (Harper and Gasman 2008). This conservatism can be found intertwined in some HBCUs’ presidential hiring processes. Focusing on the lack of gender parity in the HBCU presidency, through a Black Feminist Theory lens, I argue that HBCUs using these practices for the selection of Black women presidents create a conflict of self for aspirants who do not authentically subscribe to or perform conservatism. The philosophical ideas of authenticity, self‐esteem, and self‐respect are explored to explain how these expectations create barriers to aspirants achieving their goals and their authentic selves. Subjecting Black women leaders to these practices oppresses aspirants’ need for authenticity and leads to the replication of these conservative ideologies. I conclude that these barriers, in turn, narrow the HBCU presidential pipeline and perpetuate a lack of gender parity in HBCU leadership.


Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy is a forum for cutting-edge work in feminist philosophy. Richly interdisciplinary in orientation, Hypatia serves as a resource for the philosophy and wider women’s studies communities and for all those interested in philosophical issues raised by feminism.