1985: A Discourse on Affirmative Action
Ely Dorsey was a visiting professor at William & Mary’s School of Business and a chairman of the local NAACP chapter. In a September 1985 Flat Hat article, associate news editor James House voiced Professor Dorsey’s opinions on William & Mary’s lack of commitment to its affirmative action program. Dorsey cited racism in William & Mary’s hiring practices, which led to Black candidates not acquiring teaching positions. He also commented on the lack of black faculty. For the Fall 1985 semester, only six of about three hundred faculty were Black. Dorsey also noted that three Black faculty did not return for the Fall 1985 semester. Dorsey believed the lack of Black professors is due to racism on campus. Dale Robinson, director of William & Mary’s Affirmative Action Office, disagreed, saying that they did not return because they were visiting professors and a contract was not offered because there were not available positions. The president of the College during this time, Paul Verkuil, believed that William & Mary’s Affirmative Action Office was devoting enough effort to finding and employing Black professors. He reported that commitment to affirmative action was "embedded in the school’s policies." According to this article, William & Mary’s goal for the 1985-1986 school year was to hire twelve minority faculty. Thus, William & Mary was not meeting at least one of its goals related to affirmative action.
Dorsey’s published opinions caught the attention of Jay Michael McLeod, who claimed in his opinion article in The Flat Hat in October 1985 that Dorsey was “dead-wrong.” McLeod stated he was not qualified to represent the College, but he had worked for the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs for three semesters. He claimed that minority faculty representation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of the College’s affirmative action intentions and policies. He also said that there were not enough Black individuals qualified to teach at William & Mary. McLeod concluded his article by stating that Dorsey’s views only divide the community.
Examining both of these articles highlights the disagreement concerning the success of William & Mary’s Affirmative Action Office. The Flat Hat was not the only paper to report the questionable effectiveness of affirmative action on campus. An article posted in The Washington Post in September 1982 gives information about the William & Mary’s lack of progress concerning affirmative action and foretells Dorsey’s claims.