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. reports:

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.”


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21 thoughts on “Debra Lee, Anika Noni Rose Respond To ‘Quad’ Criticism

  1. Dwight Carpenter on said:

    Let us forget real sex scandals at PENN STATE; The University of Louisville and the hazing event that resulted in the death of a band student @ FAMU!

  2. James R. on said:

    Well certainly we don’t need anymore prostitution on the streets, just watch Quad and educate yourself on how to prostitute Presidential style with a HBCU President.

  3. I like the show. However, I do believe that there is an HBCU that has some of these issues on campus. I’m a believer that fiction is based on some sort of fact. Yes, they should show more classroom experiences than band and partying, but I think the show is giving us a view of what goes on in these trustee meetings, band practices etc. This is stuff that goes on behind the scenes that is never in the forefront unless it becomes newsworthy.

  4. Nancy Barnes on said:

    Absolutely Anika Noni Rose!!! I WILL change the channel! I disagree with your comments and perhaps it’s because you’re getting paid! The hard work that goes into producing a successful HBCU should NOT be degraded with this type of representation.

  5. Church Girl on said:

    I’m showing my age but they could learn a lot from It’s A Different World. The show made such a positive impact on the black community while tackling serious issues along the way and giving the world a peek at HBCUs. This show obviously has a different purpose but it’s just a sign of the times.

  6. I watch the show and it is entertaining. However, I think they can show teaching in the class room and perhaps someone can learn something. I think they can show why it is important to attend HBCUs along with the gritty stuff.

    • Yep! On the other hand, white folks are always making money and fools out of black folks, I guess blacks feel it’s our time to get paid. We obviously had a problem with the way Cosby portrayed us in a positive way so hey…
      Thank you Anika, I don’t blame you, you’re a paid actress I expect nothing less than your comment, I will change the channel.

  7. I am aN HBCU graduate (SU). I love the show. It depicts a realistic view of what happens on a college campus – the good and the bad. The show has great actors and I look forward to seeing it every Wednesday. Keep up the good work BET.

  8. The black intellectual elite censorship is why a lot of black actors/directors/writers aren’t working regularly. Seriously getting upset about a drama at a fictional school with fictional characters. I’m sure there are more pressing issues to worry about on actual HBCU’s campuses. Like relying too much on student loans to financially keep the schools afloat versus working to increase endowments.

  9. Virginia on said:

    Sorry folks, I’m going to have to go the other way on this one. Even fiction has to have some Creditability. You’ve got to believe that this stuff could actually happen. I don’t believe this story line.
    Rose says people are forming opinions based on One show. Of course they are! The first show and maybe the next one or two sets the premise of the entire series. The show is introducing its characters and the upcoming story lines. What I’ve learned from the first show, and snippets of a couple of other episodes is that the President, a woman (good), is engaged in an illicit affair with what appears to be a much younger man, the coach is running the campus, nobody has any respect for her decisions and are secretly plotting against her.
    AND since the President is highly “blackmailable”, how far can this story go before she’s busted (if she hasn’t been already–I couldn’t watch).
    AND, like most HBCU’s this one seems to be set in either a small or medium sized town or city. I grew up in a place like that, and EVERYBODY knows your business.
    A President like her, who is so WEAK, and without any moral authority wouldn’t last very long in any college.
    Tell me I’m wrong.

    • Cynthia Carroll on said:

      Just a suggestion. Maybe you should watch the show before posting about it or making assumptions. She is far from weak. She has her issues but being weak is not one of them. You have to know that these things are already happening in our colleges so I think it’s great that this show is bring these things to light. We can’t deal with problems that we constantly sweep under the rug and pretend they aren’t happening. Proud HBCU grad (JCSU).

  10. I agree with Dr. Walter Harvey. In my opinion, The Quad has not sunk to the ratchet low of Sorority Sisters, but it’s uncomfortably in that direction. I want to support black shows, but it needs to strike a balance between positivity and gritty soon! I opted out of Empire and Scandal a long time ago. I don’t watch ratchet TV.

  11. Celeste Mckenzie on said:

    I agree with Anika. These story line in Fiction based in fact. Sometimes the truth makes us uncomfortable. I also agree that because the importance and love that we as African Americans have for our HBCU’s is not well known to the masses to have this show on the air may appear that we’re not promoting what’s truly in our hearts and the passion we feel for our HBCUs we’d like to put the good out and sprinkle to bad in here and there (if at all) but here again that isn’t reality and anyone who wanted to tell the story differently could have done so at any point in time HBCU’s have been around for a long long time.

  12. I am an HBCU graduate (Alcorn State) and I love Quad. The show is so identifiable. and it’s supposed to draw viewers in with compelling storylines. Great writing. I for one have no interest in watching a show about college administrators going to stuffy board meetings, playing nice. Quad is just like what goes on in the real world & on real jobs. If I want to watch a documentary about HBCUs, I will. But Quad is not a documentary or a scripted reality show and we don’t live in Mayberry!

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