"Under Fire" University President McConnell at Convocation for Students' Rights in front of T-Hall.
Photograph from The New Hampshire taken by Ed Penhale, 1968
After UNH Director of Admissions, Leslie Lafond, toured southern black high schools with admissions directors from Smith, Bowdoin, Springfield, and Colby in the summer of 1966, UNH faculty and administrators met to organize a program for identifying and recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As a result, the College Opportunity Program Experiment (COPE) began operations at UNH in September, 1967. Ten students were admitted in the first year, and numbers increased slowly over several years. Students were referred by high school guidance counselors.
The program was initially funded by the University, but organizers later sought federal and other outside funding. By 1968, the program included students from southern states.
The Sidore Lecture series sponsored a three day symposium on human rights at UNH in December 1967. Speakers discussed "Black and White Power" and the need for self-determination among black Americans.
The following year the University hosted a symposium entitled, "The Role of the University in Social Crises." The Vietnam War, racism, and poverty figured prominently in the discussions intended to explore UNH's role in social change in the state. Participants critiqued the University's performance in "educational, research, and community service activities."
By spring 1968, specific proposals for change appeared across campus. More than 40 students joined together as an "Afro-American" students' organization led by Sanford Moore. Their goal was to increase awareness in the community and to "agitate for improvement."
Changes they proposed included:
- Increase enrollment of black students at UNH
- Hire five new black faculty members
- Establish a Martin Luther King Memorial Scholarship
- Obtain in-state tuition for all black students
- Introduce curriculum changes in black history, arts, and sciences
President John McConnell favored all the proposals except in-state tuition for out-of-state black students since it would violate state law.