1970: Integration Policy Debate Intensifies
The 1970s was marked with gradual and delayed efforts to integrate William & Mary’s student body and faculty. Despite mandates from the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) threatening a loss of federal funding, debate still remained about the appropriate extent of integration.
Prevailing attitudes from White faculty and administration include a fear of and opposition to presumed violence in the African-American community—probably as a result of negative opinions and portrayals of the Black Power Movement. In a 1970 letter to The Flat Hat, sociology Professor Vernon Edmonds epitomizes this attitude by mentioning “black militant ideology” and “Negro superiority” as reasons not to rush integration efforts. Many articles from this time period also demonstrate the assumption that fewer African-American students would be qualified to attend universities like William & Mary.
On the other side, African-American students and supporters of integration note the importance of hiring Black faculty and admissions staff, both to make Black prospective students more comfortable with applying and to decrease “culture shock” upon arrival. In a short article called “The Black Experience,” student Janet Brown describes harassment from White students trying to “prove Blacks are intellectually inferior.” Ms. Brown’s experience suggests that concerns about Black student comfort on campus and the need for better support systems were well-founded.
The rest of the 1970s brought a few small improvements. In 1974, the office for Minority Student Affairs was created to help serve Black students, and the College hired two African-American faculty members in 1977.
Rights Group Organizes as Holton Plan Watchdog
This issue of the Flat Hat includes two related articles discussing the issue of integration in Virginia universities as a whole. On page one, and continued on page four, the article “Rights Group Organizes” discusses a meeting in Richmond organized by Governor Linwood Holton on “Civil Rights and the Status of Higher Education in Virginia.” The meeting was attended by William & Mary students and faculty, but no administration. It addressed the HEW Civil Rights Director’s concern that Virginia colleges were still firmly divided along racial lines. Dr. Roy Hudson, the director of the Hampton Institute (now the HBCU Hampton University) refers to “cyclic racism” in the Virginia university system which has failed to either integrate or address inequalities in funding between Black and White institutions.
The page four portion of this article surrounds an ad encouraging William & Mary students to participate in a semester exchange program with Hampton. Another article in this issue (“Setback” on page three) accuses the administration of using this exchange program to distract from their lack of dedication to integration. As evidence, this article again notes the fact that no administrators attended the Richmond conference.
Paschall Letter Challenges HEW Guidelines
This edition contains an article regarding President Davis Y. Paschall’s response to the integration mandate. The Health, Education and Welfare committee (HEW) requires that a “institution of higher learning” must integrate in accordance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The regional HEW committee found in its report that the college had shown reluctance to integrate and shed its history as a “white institution.” Regional HEW committee leader, Eloise Severinson, recommended that the college revise its academic criteria “so that the potential for the academic success of black students is determined by means other than Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT).” In a letter to the HEW committee, President Paschall opposed this policy, stating that he would be reluctant to lower admissions standards in fear that it would cause William & Mary to become ineligible for financial assistance. Paschall also stated that he would consider it a violation of the law to discriminate in favor of Black applicants.
Poe Sees DYP On Black Profs
This article from Lillian Poe, a Black admissions officer, expresses opposition to President Paschall’s letter and agreement with the HEW’s report. Poe states that even though Paschall has hired Black faculty, it would take “more than one or two” Black faculty members to start any meaningful desegregation effort. The hiring of Black faculty would encourage Black students to apply since “most of these qualified students do not seriously consider the college, because they do not feel welcomed at a predominantly white institution.” Poe set forth the following goals the college should accomplish that will encourage Black students to apply: a list of non-discriminatory housing, a significant number of Black faculty hired, a Black studies course which acknowledges the contributions made by Black Americans, and an expression on the part of the administration which will inform the surrounding public of policy changes.