Student Response

     Editorials written by African American students defending the SAAC and its calls for a cultural center began appearing in the Technician. Calvin McNeil, a member of the African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, condemned the Technician and white “student leaders” for promoting mistruths about the November 1 meeting. McNeil stated, “In response to the article about blacks in Friday’s (Nov. 2) and Monday’s (Nov. 5) Technicians, I noticed the word ‘forceful’ and the phrase ‘barge in,’ respectively, were used to describe the meeting of SAAC with Chancellor Caldwell. Both descriptions are lies…The only way that SAAC would have entered more peacefully would have been on our knees, and we are not sorry we disappointed you.” The articles McNeil referenced here reflected the views of the white students and administrators the Technician interviewed, including Harrison and Dean Talley. Their use of the word “forceful” indicates they felt the SAAC did not want to “air grievances” rather that they made demands. Walter C. Cummings also wrote an editorial criticizing Technician coverage of the event stating, “The articles were highly biased against the Blacks, which is an oddity if they were written by highly sympathetic Whites… I am no child, but a man. Yet, I feel that I have been treated as a child, pacified, fooled. I don’t want whites to love or fool me. I don’t need that, I demand respect for what I am, and then I will give respect.” For many African American students, Technician served as an outlet to express feelings of frustrations with white students and to demand campus respect.

     White students did not take these editorials lightly and their perceptions of African American students’ grievances continued to sour. An unsigned letter to the editor appeared in the Technician on November 12 which compared African American students to another campus minority, “longhairs.” In a fictional protest the “longhairs” demanded $10,000 from the Student Center Board of Directors for a “Super-Rock Festival” and “more lectures on ways of ‘Beating the Law when Busted,’ avoiding bad grades by use of another lecture called ‘Six ways to Avoid Bad Grades by Screaming Discrimination.’” In conclusion, the author declared, “This letter is written as an example of what would happen if every minority on campus acted as selfishly as the blacks have.” What is particularly interesting about this letter was the author’s request for the Technician to exclude his or her name from publication. Perhaps the author’s recognition of the absurdities of comparing a racial minority to students who enjoy rock music influenced their decision to remain anonymous. The article also reflects that many students and administrators believed African American students demanded a cultural center, rather than that they proposed or requested a campus center. “Longhairs” also referred to people who embraced the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and anti-war protestors. This article rejects proponents of counterculture, demonstrating that the author possessed many conservative views. The article also indicates that this particular student possessed racist views of African Americans – that African American students made good grades because professors feared discrimination claims and that African Americans were “selfish.” These views demonstrate a larger issue of student racism and conservatism on campus.

Visit other Exhibits in Crossing the Color Line.