Adams' Report to the University Senate

When Myrna Adams met with the University Senate in early 1970, she described the critical issues facing the Black Student Program. Her eight page report detailed the following issues:

  • The money wasn't there
  • Not enough innovation or risk-taking in admissions policies
  • Lack of experience at UNH in interacting with black people
  • Developing a black community difficult
  • Need further commitment with sound financial basis

Adams described the difficulty she faced in creating a black community when its members were spread so thinly across campus. When asked if she promoted a separatist community, Adams replied she wished to stress self-reliance and a positive self-concept through "collective identifications as black people." Her report detailed the challenges still facing the Black Student Program and offered suggestions for conceptualizing the program for the future.

Douglas L. Wheeler

History

Social Science Center

REPORT TO THE UNIVERSITY SENATE

ON BLACK STUDENT AFFAIRS

Submitted by: Myrna C. Adams

Assistant to the Academic Vice President

December 31, 1969

This document should be viewed only as an Interim Progress Report inasmuch as it focuses upon what has been done to date and leaves the future direction of our efforts to subsequent elaboration.

Conceptually the UNH program for Black students has been thought of as essentially an integral part of a larger effort to serve the "disadvantaged" population of New Hampshire, rather than as a special program which shares SOME features in common with such an effort but in many ways is dissimilar.  Psychologically, administratively, educationally and financially it would seem wise to modify the former concept and consider the Black student program from the latter perspective.

Some students from poor Black and white families have been recruited to the University and financial assistance has been given them under the banner of the "COPE-King Program".  In some cases these students had not met all of the admission requirements to the University, but they did evidence potential to complete a Baccalaureate degree program and were given that opportunity.  The term "disadvantaged" is an unfortunate one to apply because in many places it has come to imply "substandard" and "inferior" when, particularly with reference to Blacks, it should frequently mean only different; moreover, the real problem with the word is that it does not account for HOW these differences developed and WHY they are maintained.  When one is referring to a caste, the question of disadvantaged is irrelevant.  It is important to correct the fallacious assumption that ALL of the Black students on this campus are "disadvantaged".  Economically the majority of them are, academically the majority are not, and culturally none of them is.

The University has begun to involve itself in a serious national dilemma (a problem presumes a satisfactory solution, a dilemma defies one).  The extent of the commitment of the Trustees, administration, faculty and student body to assist Black students and disadvantaged students is manifested in the development of the College Opportunity Program Experiment (COPE).  This program was started in 1967 with ten students and the provision for ten additional students each year for three years, which would yield a total of thirty students whose record of achievement at UNH could be studies with a view toward reassessing its value and potential to both the student and the institution.  COPE was essentially a recruitment and financial assistance experiment in admissionsRemediation of academic deficiencies was not formally provided.  I emphasize this in order to correct a misconception about the "program."

The "COPE Program" was "color-blind" and indeed supported more white than Black students.  In the aftermath of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King eight scholarships were established specifically for Black students – two of which were to be designated as graduate fellows.  Academic assistance during the summer session and throughout the year was called for, and a request for Black faculty was made by the Martin Luther King Scholarship Committee.  The report of that committee called for a merger of this effort with the existent "COPE Program", hence, the "COPE-King Program". 

An important recommendation of this committee was that a Black recruiter be hired to "seek out, interview and determine the eligibility of prospective students" for this program.  Further, the committee recommended a total financial aid package sufficient to allow the student to participate freely in the University community.

Last Spring the University community made a commitment to expand its efforts significantly.  The stance taken by the University is documented in two reports:  "The Report of the Joint Student-Faculty Board on Black Student Affairs" and the "Joint Report of the Admissions and Scholastic Standing Committees".  (See Appendix i and ii)

This public commitment was an Act of Faith inasmuch as the money wasn't there; it was stated that "outside" resources would be found to finance the costs.  To date only minor outside support has materialized but negations are in progress with interested potential sources.  The need (fiscal year 1969-70) is for approximately $40,000 to cover total commitments to students now on campus.  Realistically, there are serious problems at this time in financing this effort in this state, and more specifically, at this institution.  Director of Development, J. R. Sandberg has stated:

--(This program) is not so "innovative" as to attract the attention of major foundations which understandably are searching for high risk but promising "breakthrough" possibilities;

--(We are) not located in a potentially...explosive environment that demands priority attention from government or industry; and

--It is not so popular a cause in our normal support constituency as to encourage a broad-based public appeal for funds.

Within the framework of the aforementioned Senate documents and guidelines issued by the Board of Trustees, the University has acted in the face of severe financial and time limitations of implement two major goals:  1) to enrich the living-learning experience of the University community by introducing a greater number of Black students, faculty and administrative staff, and 2) to enrich the lives of a significant number of American youth—Black and white who, by virtue of their status in this society would likely have been denied access to the University and what it can represent in their future lives.

In June, a Black, Mr. James Johnson, who has been hired as Assistant Director of Admissions, was detailed to become co-director with Mr. Ronald Watson of the New York Urban League of the Summer Orientation for Black students—a program established by the University as a "bridge" between high school and the University.  Although initial confusion militated against its success, the Summer Orientation became a valuable experience for the nine Black freshmen and the four Upward Bound students who participated.  On July 7 students began to "probe the total environment of the University in an attempt to clarify the basic pattern by which the institution functions...to stimulate their thinking about what success in the University is and then to provide both the basic skills and conceptual tools necessary for the pursuit of that success regardless of how each individual defines it".  Building upon the basis of self-awareness and positive self identity, the students were encouraged to improve writing and research skills throughout the six week period.  For students with deficiency in mathematics, Thomas Lawson, graduate student in math, conducted a special course and provided tutoring as needed.  Students were encouraged to audit informally regular summer session courses and to enroll officially in one course if they desired to do so.  Regular seminars were organized to consider the content, procedures and dynamics of these classes.  Students were challenged to probe the relationship between these classes and the world outside of the classroom as they know it to be.  Professors from various disciplines were invited to discuss with the students some of the academic options available to them or simply to relate their discipline to a social problem and explore how that discipline could contribute to the solution of the problem.  Text books and other learning materials were provided, field trips were taken, films were rented.  While some components of the Summer Orientation were shared with the Upward Bound Program, the total cost to the University was $7,150.  At the end of the six weeks, these thirteen students (and Messrs. Johnson and Watson) had learned enough about UNH to become valuable resources to the students who arrived in September.  We who were here this summer immediately recognized that strategies would have to be devised to cope with what could constitute THE major threat to the development of a meaningful program for Black students on this campus:  the woefully widespread lack of experience in interacting with Black people with a consequent absence of the basic rudiments of "soul" (or what may be called a Black style of life).

The problems of coping with this environment are faced by Black administrators, faculty and students alike; hence, we are all working to develop a real, albeit small, Black community within this institution.  Artificial status barriers have been broken down among us.  (Consequently Thompson Hall is not a forbidden place for Black students; it is simply the building where Myrna and "Buddy's" offices are.)

Developing a sense of community is no small task when people are widely scattered throughout the University.  Because of the diversity of academic interests, the students are enrolled in virtually every college and hence, there is still rarely more than one Black face before the instructor in any given class.  Students do not reside in the same residence halls.  Since there is no Black Studies Department, Black faculty are likewise scattered:  Mr. Cleveland Howard is in Music, Mrs. May Moss in Botany, Mr. George Cunningham in History, Mr. Lester Fisher in English, Mr. William Lawson (graduate student) in Psychology, Mr. William Burgess (graduate student) in Chemistry.  The Rev. Early Lawson comes up from Boston on Tuesdays to direct a Life Studies Workshop. 

We had to have a place to meet—a facility adequate to serve a number of functions: a social center, an office, tutorial room, a library, conference-seminar room, and of course, a kitchen.  The University made available six rooms in Richards House (14 Ballard Street) which we are presently redecorating and furnishing.  It has been renamed "Umoja (unity) House".

In September the University admitted, and funded in amounts determined by individual need (see Appendix iii), 21 Black undergraduate and one graduate student.  Seven students are graduates of Huntington High School in Newport News, Virginia where Mr. Johnson, Assistant Director of Admissions, was counselor; and five are transfer students from Malcolm X Community College—a campus of the Chicago City College system—where I was Director of Counseling.  The remainder of the total group of 26 Black "COPE-King" students come from Alabama (3), Connecticut (2), Pennsylvania (3), Florida (2), Massachusetts (1), and New Hampshire (3).  These students evidence real ability and a potential to achieve.  They accommodated themselves very well to their past educational experiences and are likely to achieve as well as any random group of UNH freshmen.

Cautious implementation of University admissions policies seemed appropriate in the Fall of 1969; it is now time for creative, innovative risk-taking.  Mr. Johnson states:

"It seems ironic that the Admissions Office recruit Black students with the intent of fulfilling the proposed guidelines of the joint report and look only for those students who meet the normal criteria for admission to Harvard, Dartmouth, Radcliffe and similar institutions.  Invariably most institutions seek out the 'cream of the crop'.  The University might begin to look at another group as well—the student who may show us little statistically but has been recommended by qualified persons in the community and in the schools."

By virtue of his concern FOR THE STUDENT, his own black experience, and formal training, Mr. Johnson is prepared to make the judgments and accept the responsibility for the decisions.  This University has the necessary mechanisms; now we should use them.  If we make an error in our judgments from time to time, we'll at least feel that we're performing in a human rather than a mechanical way.

Our specific charge is to use all the options available to us in order to meet the needs of the student as he pursues his academic goals.  Some of the students were counseled into taking a reduced load this semester.  Tutoring has been informally undertaken by the Black faculty and by the more proficient students in the group.  Counseling has also been shared by each of us on an ad hoc basis.  These are only interim measures to be sure.  A well coordinated, funded tutoring program is to be developed; a full-time counselor is to be hired.  This semester we introduced a mid-term Interim Evaluation Report (see Appendix iv) an an "early warning" device to detect academic problems in time to make some intervention.  We are presently completing a Course Evaluation Form which should prove useful for advisement purposes.

President McConnell has established a permanent Student-Faculty Board on Black Student Affairs "to provide an on-going review of current programs...as well as to suggest additional needs for programs which should be initiated."  The members of that Board are: Richard Stevens, Lester Fisher, Gordon Haaland, Evelyn Browne, Myrna Adams, William Wetzel, David Ellis, Stanley Plummer; students Bruce Bynum, Joseph Hill, James Howard, Tyrone Lark, Don Land, Bernie Baldeh, and Eric Joyner.

Perhaps because I'm new here, I can operate on the premise that EVERYTHING is possible for the future of this program, indeed for a total effort to serve those previously denied access to higher education.  We do need money, but more importantly, we need a commitment to do more.  We also need a PLAN.  This institution is lagging in experimentation with admissions requirements, instructional innovations and student services.

Insofar as Black students are concerned, students, faculty and administration at UNH must do more.  At this time the University community is barely aware of the presence of Blacks; in most classes there are none; and some dormitories have no Black residents.  The program must be established on a sound financial basis that will support the Black students presently on campus through to graduation while additional freshmen, transfer students and graduate students are added.

Finally, the question constantly arises as to whether or not we are taking the "separatist" route in developing a program for Black students at UNH.  My only response is that we are deliberately trying to develop in the Black students at UNH a positive self-concept which derives from a sense of personal and collective identifications as Black people.  We will design and support projects and utilize processes which stress self-reliance, self-determination and cooperative efforts.  It is my hope that we can get support for a program which emphasized Black people holding each other accountable for their achievements ignoring -  but not denying; the existence of a white Establishment.