Exclusive Book Excerpt: FRATERNITY
In a 2007 edition of Businessweek, writer Diane Brady told the story of the African American men who came to Holy Cross during the racially tense times of the late 1960s, each with the staunch encouragement of Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., '49 (then vice president and dean of the College). Fr. Brooks searched for promising African American high schoolers along the East Coast, and believed that these young men had the potential to succeed given the chance-the chance a Jesuit education from Holy Cross could provide.
The future President of the College selected wisely. Of the 20 students he mentored, several would go on to earn national and international acclaim: star litigator Theodore V. Wells Jr. '72; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas '71; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edward P. Jones '72; former New York City deputy mayor and investment banker Stanley E. Grayson '72 and Eddie J. Jenkins '72, the former Miami Dolphins running back during that team's perfect 1972 season.
In her article, Brady dubbed the group "The Holy Cross Fraternity," and now, she has revisited one of the most interesting chapters in Holy Cross history in her new book, Fraternity (Random House, January 2012).
The rich tale of Fraternity highlights the emotional bonds created among the students, their peers and especially between the future black leaders and their mentor and biggest supporter, Fr. Brooks. The book also examines the struggles of life for these African American men on a predominantly white campus. In this exclusive excerpt, Holy Cross Magazine presents Chapter Nine, "The Walkout," in which Brady describes the turmoil that followed one particular recruiting protest on campus-and how it almost tore down Fr. Brooks' dream.
By late 1969, antiwar protests had become an unavoidable part of campus life. While some students took an active role in the ROTC and supported American efforts to defeat North Vietnam's communist forces, a growing number were angry and desperate for the United States to pull out. Nationwide, students were looking for any opportunity to make themselves heard on the war or on any matter of social injustice. Holy Cross was ripe terrain for anyone looking to protest the war. The College had a long- standing ROTC presence and was a popular recruiting spot for the military as well as companies with military contracts. The steady stream of recruitment visits gave antiwar protesters easy targets for demonstrations. In the fall of 1969, the Holy Cross chapter of Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] staged a "talkathon" when Marine recruiters came to campus. They chanted so loudly that the officers were unable to interview potential recruits. While tensions were high, most of the demonstrations passed without incident. During a march to protest an insurer's involvement in a controversial urban renewal project, police met the protesters at the company's headquarters in full riot gear with dogs and reinforcements. The police sent the students back to campus and they left without any real arguments. None of them wanted to go to jail or get into real trouble. Fr. Brooks firmly believed in the students' right to protest. Occasionally he even joined them. At one October event, a large group of students gathered on the library steps to call for a moratorium on U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Fr. Brooks gave a speech in support of the students' call, and then he and Swords [College President Rev. Raymond J. Swords, S.J.] held an impromptu mass for everyone who showed up. Minor campus confrontations continued throughout the fall of 1969. The SDS morphed into the Revolutionary Students Union (RSU), and the new group devoted much of its effort to going after the ROTC.
On December 1, the faculty senate took a vote to state that, among other things, "advocates of no cause will be permitted to deny freedom to anyone with whom they may disagree." Moreover, when it came to career recruiting, the campus "must remain open to the representatives of business firms and agencies of government which enjoy a legitimate place in American society." The RSU vowed to continue with its protests in spite of the vote. Next up was a General Electric Company recruitment visit on December 10. Protesters saw that as an opportunity to log yet another victory. The RSU announced that it planned to interrupt the GE visit in support of an ongoing strike by GE workers and to protest the company's role as a major defense contractor that manufactured products like the Minigun, a helicopter-mounted weapon that could fire up to four thousand rounds per minute. The RSU organizers approached Ted Wells and Art Martin to see if the Black Student Union wanted to join the protest, since GE had been accused of discriminating against African Americans. Wells was skeptical; he argued that the BSU should save its energy for battles that were more directly related to black issues, but he agreed to take the matter to a vote. The black students met on December 9 and, after some debate, agreed that the union should stay neutral. Anyone who wanted to join the protest would have to go on his own. The next morning, two GE recruiters arrived on campus. Holy Cross officials met them in the parking lot and took them straight to Room 320 of Hogan Hall. Within half an hour, a few dozen students had gathered to interrupt the job interviews. When the first senior tried to enter the room for an interview, he was turned away by a chain of interlocked arms. The same thing happened for two other students, who left amid a chorus of voices chanting "Workers, yes! GE, no!" Don McClain, the dean of students, was livid. He stood before the crowd and vowed to take the matter to the College Judicial Board for further action if the protesters didn't disband. When the students ignored him, McClain, frustrated, asked the recruiters to leave.
Within an hour, John Shay, the vice president for student affairs, read a statement on behalf of the College, noting that "the students who participated in [the] obstruction of the General Electric Company's career counseling appointment did so with the full knowledge that such obstruction was in direct defiance of an explicitly stated College policy on demonstrations." He added that anyone charged would have their cases heard before the College Judicial Board, which would have the authority to suspend or expel them. Later that day, members of McClain's staff made what they later called a "visual identification" of sixteen students out of the fifty-four who had been at the demonstration. They put the names of the identified protesters on a list of students to be charged with violating College rules. Most of the students on the list were activist organizers who had made a name for themselves at Holy Cross. Four of the sixteen identified students were black. They weren't regular protesters; they were merely, as McClain put it, "highly identifiable." There had been five black students in total at the demonstration. Ted Wells organized an emergency BSU executive meeting that evening when he learned about the outcome of the demonstration. Wells thought the charges were racist, pure and simple. At the meeting Art Martin was visibly exasperated, and furious with the black protesters whose involvement was forcing the BSU to take a drastic stance. He described them as "badasses" and argued that it was their own fault if they were expelled, since the BSU had formally declined to participate in the protests. But he eventually agreed with Wells; the collective insult was too great to ignore. Clarence Thomas also felt torn. The school had set up a law, he argued, and these men had blatantly broken it. Still, he added, fair was fair, and in a crowd of mostly white men, the fact that it was easier to pick out the people with dark complexions didn't make it right. Thomas himself had contemplated going down to the demonstration. He shuddered to think that it could have been him- likely would have been him- about to face the judicial board if he had acted on his whim; this time he had ignored his usual instincts to oppose whatever stance Wells and the BSU put forward. In the end, all the men agreed that the College's behavior was unacceptable and racist. The board would have to drop all charges against the black men, or else the BSU would take action. None of them was willing to contemplate what kind of action they would take; they hoped that the College would understand the BSU's position and agree to its demands. They decided to appoint a spokesman who would represent the black protesters before the judicial board. Each of the sixteen students would be making his individual case for why he shouldn't be suspended or expelled. It would be hard for any of them to argue that they didn't know they were breaking the rules, but the BSU wanted to make this a formal issue about race. Wells was passionate about how wronged the men were, and the BSU members agreed that nobody was better than Wells when it came to presenting a persuasive argument, not even Clarence Thomas. The accused students agreed to have Wells speak on their behalf.
The next morning, on December 11, Ted Wells left a message for Fr. Brooks, asking to meet before the 12:30 p.m. hearing. He believed the dean would share their outrage. Brooks didn't get the message in time, so Wells went to the meeting a half hour before it began and asked the board chairman, a larger-than-life chemistry professor named Michael McGrath, if he could represent the black students. A surprised McGrath turned to the four accused students to ask if they really thought that having another student explain their actions would help their case, and if they were sure they didn't want to speak up for themselves. The men nodded.
Wells immediately tried to shift the discussion away from the legality of the demonstrations. What they were there to talk about, he asserted, was "a much higher issue- racism." There had been 54 students at the demonstration, including five who were black. Of the 16 who were singled out for punishment, though, a dozen were white and four were black. In other words, Wells noted, 20 percent of the white demonstrators were charged while 80 percent of the blacks were. "As spokesman for the Holy Cross BSU, I charge that this school has exhibited racist attitudes in the naming of a grossly disproportionate number of blacks to stand trial in this case," he told the room. Moreover, Wells noted that he was standing before a judicial board that was entirely white and, in all probability, unlikely to appreciate the inherent racism in how the students were charged. The board, which consisted of one administrator, six professors, and three students, was silent after Wells's speech. Then they began to ask questions: Why were the black students at the protest? What were they doing during the demonstration? Were they members of the RSU? Weren't they standing near the door, where they would have been easy to identify-black or white? Did they want to have their cases looked at individually, so they could present extenuating circumstances, or did they want to be heard as a group? Each of the men responded that they wanted to be heard as a group. McGrath asked them again: Were they sure they wanted to stick with the group? They did. Several of the white students then jumped to their own defense, claiming that they had been charged only because of their involvement with the RSU and because they had been willing to give their names. The board then began its deliberations. In an account later presented by McGrath, he noted that the members agreed that the rules had been broken, and debated whether the RSU itself had a right to exist, given its history of trampling on the rights of others. The fate of the black students was less clear. One member pointed out that just because they had been identified in higher numbers than the whites didn't mean they weren't subject to the same rules. But the fact that they had been singled out made some members uncomfortable, as did Ted Wells's warning that if amnesty weren't granted to the four men, the BSU would have "no alternative except to take action commensurate with the situation at hand."
Wells was worried when he walked out of the hearing. Back at the dorm he rounded up every member of the BSU to enlist their help in contacting all 64 black men on campus. Stan Grayson was away at a basketball game and couldn't be reached, and a few others were missing as well.
When the BSU met that night, the fury in the room was palpable. Wells wasn't optimistic about what the judicial board would decide. If its members didn't immediately see the racism of the situation, he believed, they probably never would. The men began to yell out suggestions. "Let's blow something up," said one.
"Let's occupy a building."
"Let's march into Swords's office, man!"
Thomas spoke calmly over the fray. "Let's just leave."
The men grew quiet. Thomas repeated himself: "Let's just leave." If the College didn't want them there, he argued, then should they stay? There was no power in staging a sit- in, or marching to the president's office. But if they all got up and walked out together, that would really say something.
Up next: The decision to leave, and what it meant for the BSU students and the College.
The men mulled over Thomas's suggestion. If they quit school, all of them might suffer. But the gesture would be impossible to ignore and, in one swift action, Holy Cross could lose its entire black student population. Thomas understood the risk in what he was suggesting, and he was scared. He would have nowhere to go. There were scholarships on the line, and there would be heartbroken parents. But what choice did they have? If they weren't going to be treated fairly, he argued, the only answer was to calmly leave.
Art Martin sat quietly, staring at his hands. He was in his final year, headed to law school. He had endured three and a half years of studying, three and a half years of looking the other way at veiled insults. Graduation was in sight. But he couldn't let that stand in the way of doing what was right. "I'm in," he said.
Ted Wells had a lump in his throat as he thought about calling his mother, and about trying to get admitted to another good college on scholarship if he quit this one in protest. Over the next few hours, they continued to debate strategy and give each student a chance to have his say. It was close to midnight when they finally took the matter to a vote. All of the men unanimously agreed to leave Holy Cross if the board declined the four protesters amnesty. It was the most powerful statement they could make, a test of the College's commitment to truly furthering civil rights. The College was important to the men, but they recognized that the black students were important to Holy Cross, too. Their presence, however small, was a visible testament to the dedication of Fr. Brooks and others to civil rights. They were taking a gamble: If the College wanted to make an example of four black men, it would lose them all.
Wells immediately called Brooks to explain their decision, and Brooks suggested that Wells and Martin meet him right away at the president's residence. When they arrived at 1:30 a.m., Brooks and President Swords were already waiting. The president listened as Wells and Martin explained the BSU's position, but although he acknowledged their concerns, he was unmoved by the argument. Nobody at the College should be allowed to disrupt legitimate campus activities and violate the rights of fellow students. Moreover, the decision lay in the hands of the board. As president, he would abide by whatever they decided.
Brooks tried to find a middle ground, but he could see that there wasn't one. He argued that identifying the black students was likely less motivated by racism than by laziness, but he agreed that the results were the same. It was simply wrong to have such a high proportion of black students charged when most of the white students were exempt from punishment. But Swords wasn't about to dismiss charges against students who had broken the rules simply because they were black, either.
Brooks could see that the problem wasn't going to be resolved there. Even if the black students were willing to put their fates on the line over a matter of principle, the president wasn't about to give in. Brooks had witnessed how distraught his colleague and mentor had become amid what he saw as mounting chaos on campus and growing disrespect for the rules. Three months earlier, Swords had told Brooks that he couldn't go on any longer and was going to make preparations to leave at the end of the school year. The College was under financial strain, and the president had tapped its small endowment to raise faculty salaries. He had to deal with anger from alumni, faculty, and students who didn't like the form or the pace of change at Holy Cross. The stress had become too great.
Swords looked upset when he told the men that he couldn't make an exception for them.
"I guess that's it then," said Wells.
As he and Martin walked out the door, Brooks called after them, telling them not to do anything drastic. "Give us a chance to try to work things out."
Art Martin felt hurt and full of rage. The school wasn't even aware of its own racism, and Fr. Brooks, the man who had done so much to make them feel like a part of the community, now appeared to be utterly impotent.
Wells and Martin left their meeting with Swords at 2:45 a.m. on Friday, December 12. Fifteen minutes later, elsewhere on campus, the board announced its decision: All sixteen students charged would be suspended for the rest of the academic year; they had to pack up their bags and leave before 5 p.m. on Sunday. They would be allowed to take their exams for the final semester but they would not be allowed back on the campus for any other reason, though they would be allowed to apply for readmission to the College and resume their studies, with approval from the dean of men, in the fall of 1970. Wells and Martin walked over to the campus radio station and announced that, in response to the administration's decision, the black students were leaving Holy Cross. The BSU would hold a press conference at 10 a.m. to make its views known. When they returned to the corridor, many of the men were still awake. They were devastated when they learned of the board's ruling. Wells suggested that they should all put on their best clothes in the morning, make their statement, and then walk proudly out of the school to start a new chapter of their lives. Several of the men began to call up the black freshmen who lived in the other dorms to inform them of the decision.
Eddie Jenkins didn't really feel up for the walkout: He had already lost his football season and had barely recovered from hepatitis. It looked certain that he was off to Vietnam. Now he had to tell his parents that he would no longer be enrolled in the College that had made them so proud. Both parents would be crushed to learn that he quit.
Clarence Thomas sat in his room, anxiously deliberating over where he would go. Savannah was out of the question. He thought he might be able to spend a few nights in town at Kathy Ambush's house. He might find a way to continue his studies somewhere else, but it was the long term that worried him. What law school was going to accept and support a student who had dropped out because of alleged racism?
Ed Jones, though equally anxious, felt a surge of quiet pride in the BSU's willingness to stand together and fight racism. This was the kind of solidarity he had been calling for all year. As he later wrote in an article that ran in National Catholic Reporter: "Our concerns must begin to wander from the anxiety of getting a girl for the weekend to the future of black girls in the ghetto, from our grades to the total education of black people. If we fall into the ivory [white] tower bag, then we are doubly guilty of anything the whites are." If Jones hadn't come to Holy Cross, he firmly believed that he would have joined the Black Panthers in D.C. by now. But he was in Worcester, about to leave his college education behind. He wasn't sure how his mother would react. While she was proud to have a son in college, she hadn't encouraged him to go. Jones knew that his life was a mystery to his mother. She wasn't the type to hope for too much. He imagined that if he quit and went home, she might just shrug, light up a cigarette, and tell him he better go find a job.
Ted Wells called his mother from a pay phone. [She] was quiet while he explained what was going on. She trusted her son more than anyone in the world. "If you think it's the right thing to do, then that's what you should do," she said. Later Wells talked strategy with Art Martin: The men were to pack whatever belongings they could carry. In the morning they would walk together to the auditorium at the Hogan Campus Center and gather onstage to announce their departure. The BSU would pay for everyone's ticket home with cash on hand, which they would no longer need for anything else.
Next: News of the walkout spreads like wildfire, and students mobilize in support while Fr. Brooks works to mend the situation.
News of the planned walkout spread fast. The student government chairman held an emergency meeting and issued a statement condemning the "de facto racism" of the board's decision and calling for amnesty for all sixteen students.
Fr. Brooks began fielding calls from parents before dawn. He understood their concern. Dropping out of college in the middle of the year would be damaging enough, but most of these men were also receiving full financial support from Holy Cross. Even if their sons were somehow able to return to the school, the parents were worried that the men's actions might jeopardize their scholarships. And in any case, they would be branded as protesters, which might jeopardize their future. Though he was scared for them, too, Brooks told them not to worry and promised that the College would do everything possible to work the crisis out.
By 10 a.m. Friday morning, more than six hundred students had gathered in the Hogan ballroom. There was a sense of anticipation in the air, the feeling that something dramatic was going to happen. Most of the students had come out to support the BSU's stance. The crowd erupted in cheers as the black students filed in and walked up onto the stage. With the exception of three or four students, every black man on campus had agreed to join in the walkout. Brooks stood to the side looking grim as Wells read a statement.
The BSU sympathized with the Revolutionary Students Union in its struggle against human oppression, he said, but this was about racism. It was about the arbitrary decision to charge 80 percent of the black students at a demonstration and let 80 percent of the white students go free. The black students of Holy Cross had no choice but to walk away from the College until the four men in question were reinstated without punishment.
When Wells finished speaking, the men behind him raised their arms with clenched fists in a sign of black power. Then, one by one, they threw down their student ID cards and walked single file out of the ballroom. As they left, the other students in the room began to chant "Strike!" and other words of support. Brooks pushed his way through the ballroom to reach Wells outside, and asked him to please keep everyone close by. He was going to find a way to work everything out. Wells told Brooks that they had made their position clear. Brooks nodded. He would do what he could but Wells and Martin, at least, had to be willing to stay close by to negotiate. Wells agreed. Much of the student body was now threatening to boycott classes unless the black students returned. More important, Brooks felt that they couldn't let every one of those men walk away from their education. "There are times," he told the president, "when one principle has to override another." To Brooks's surprise, Swords agreed. Brooks learned that a few members of the College Judicial Board were even reconsidering their decision. Brooks offered to help gather a group together to discuss the situation with Swords so that the president could reconsider the facts of the case. He knew they needed to act quickly.
His top priority was to find a person to join the discussions who could represent the views of the black students. He approached John Scott, a respected black community activist and former sociology professor who was also chairman of the city of Worcester's Human Rights Committee. Paul Rosenkrantz and Brooks would be part of the group, along with John Shay, who had been on the judicial board but had abstained from voting. Others would be invited to join in and speak, when appropriate. On the surface the goal was to present all points of view, but for Brooks it was to bring the black students back before it was too late.
At 4:00 p.m., Swords and Brooks went to a scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees, who told Swords that it wasn't their role to reverse the decision of any campus group. Swords was the only one with the authority to do that.
Brooks went to see Ted Wells and Art Martin to explain what was going on. They knew John Scott and felt that, as someone who was black and not affiliated with Holy Cross, he would be sympathetic to their arguments. They agreed to negotiate through him. As Brooks turned to leave, he thrust a couple of hundred dollars into Wells's hand. When Wells looked up in surprise, Brooks asked him to spread it among the men. They wouldn't be eating on campus for a while, Brooks pointed out, so they could use the money to get some burgers and fries. Wells suspected that the money had come from the priest's own pocket.
Stan Grayson didn't learn about the walkout until later that evening, when the basketball players returned from an embarrassing 92-68 loss to Columbia. Grayson was exhausted and bracing himself for some ribbing about the team's defeat. As he got off the bus, he saw Ted Wells, who explained what had happened. Grayson immediately told his teammates that he had to leave.
The team was scheduled to play in the coming days, but Coach Donahue told him to do whatever he thought was right. Grayson was one of the coach's favorite players; the coach admired the sophomore's principles and integrity. Grayson shook his hand, and the hands of his team members, and immediately headed to the corridor to grab his things.
The next day, the campus was buzzing with activity. A number of students and faculty had organized a daylong forum to talk about the racism charges. Fr. Brooks had brought together the advisory committee that morning.
President Swords sat silently as John Scott, the arbitrator, got up and warned that "if you let these men quit, then it's likely that a lot of other students will walk out and you'll have a general strike on your hands." That might draw the SDS, Black Panthers, or other activist groups intent on stirring up violence. Swords listened but remained silent. Brooks understood that the president wanted to witness the debate, not influence it. For the rest of Saturday and into the night, Swords didn't offer a single opinion.
At the forum, emotions were still running high. Some faculty members were visibly angry that the black students were getting special treatment; another admitted that he had initially opposed amnesty but then reversed his decision when he saw the severity of the sentence. Now he didn't see why any of the black students would want to return to Holy Cross after the treatment that they had received. The Worcester Telegram ran an editorial on Saturday praising the board for its "courage" in sticking to its guns and noting that the rules had been "arrogantly flouted by a group of self- styled revolutionary students who almost precipitated mob violence in a crowded corridor."
Black or white, the Telegram wrote, the students deserved to be punished. During every break from the council discussions, Fr. Brooks drove to the Clark campus to tell Ted Wells and Art Martin what had happened in the meetings. He wanted to make sure that the men didn't lose hope and start to disperse. He asked Wells if the men needed anything. His voice cracking with fatigue, Fr. Brooks promised to call with updates. Wells agreed to persuade everyone to stay put; he knew the stakes were too high to do otherwise. Although he was moved by the priest's commitment, Wells was still angry. Fr. Brooks might care about the fate of the BSU, but the fact that the president hadn't reversed his decision yet was upsetting. What was clear-cut racism to the black students seemed to be a gray area to the leaders of Holy Cross. Why else would they still be debating the matter? Wells was right-many in the Holy Cross administration saw no need to welcome the black students back. The discussions among members of the advisory group were getting heated. Some faculty members felt that overruling the College Judicial Board would be tantamount to calling it worthless and letting the campus degenerate into mob rule. It would be a victory for the demonstrators. But Fr. Brooks didn't much care about whether the president's ruling might prompt further demonstrations or damage to the school's reputation; the real tragedy of getting it wrong would be felt by the students.
The group took a break at 2:30 a.m., and Fr. Brooks drove back to Clark to meet again with Wells and Martin. They told him that many of the black students would head home Sunday night if the president hadn't reversed his decision by that point, and they would do the same, too. When Fr. Brooks let the committee know of the black students' intentions, several remained unmoved. As he later told Worcester's Evening Gazette, sometimes whites "couldn't even see their own bias, never mind overcome it."
As the sun was beginning to set on Sunday, President Swords announced that he had heard enough. Fr. Brooks contacted Wells and Martin to ask that they return to the school to hear the president's decision.
At 6:30 p.m. on December 14, Swords and Fr. Brooks arrived at the ballroom, where hundreds of students and faculty had already gathered. Swords looked somber as he stepped up to the podium. Everyone was silent as the president stood up, adjusted the thick, black frames of his glasses, and read his statement. "I am granting amnesty to the 16 students of Holy Cross College whose suspension from the College because of their involvement in the General Electric Co. incident was previously announced." Every student who had been charged in the demonstration, black or white, would be exonerated and free to resume their studies.
The murmurs of the crowd almost drowned out the rest of his words. Swords went on to say that he now agreed with the BSU that the procedures for identifying students weren't ideal and that every student who had been at the protest should have been charged. While the judicial board may have acted as fairly as it could have under the circumstances, its decision would be reversed. Moreover, all campus recruitment would be postponed and formal classes would be canceled for the following week to allow students and faculty to discuss racial issues on campus. Everyone had been affected by the events of the past three days, and Swords wanted to give the campus time to absorb them and a chance to debate their opinions.
Fr. Brooks felt a wave of relief, and respect for Swords's courage to reverse his public stance. Art Martin and Ted Wells, standing near the stage, dressed in jackets and ties, were visibly moved. As the crowd cheered, Martin came to the podium to announce that the black students would return to campus after the Christmas break. One of the students saw Fr. Brooks standing to the side, slipping out quietly with tears in his eyes.
From the book, Fraternity, by Diane Brady, which will be published in January 2012. Copyright © 2011 by Diane Brady. Reprinted by arrangement with Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. (Fraternity is available through amazon.com.)
Next: Holy Cross Magazine asks campus leaders where we stand now in terms of being a diverse, inclusive campus.
Diversity: Where We Stand Now
Holy Cross is a different place than it was in 1968 when Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., '49 took it upon himself to drive around the country to recruit African American high school students to come to the all-male, primarily white campus. Today, the Class of 2015 is 25 percent ALANA*, and the College had an 18 percent increase in ALANA applications this year. Yet despite these strides, diversity is still a work in progress-and a clear priority for Holy Cross. Extensive campus-wide study and discussion over the past year led to the creation of a new leadership position, Chief Diversity Officer. The search for this person is under way. He or she will join the effort to ensure that Holy Cross nurtures what College President Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., calls an "open, honest, inquisitive and respectful" campus culture. Holy Cross Magazine talked to some of today's campus leaders to learn more about where we are on the journey to being a more inclusive, diverse institution.
Why does reaching a greater level of diversity continue to be an important part of our goals for the College?
Mable Millner, assistant dean of students and director of multicultural education: One of the sayings that we use is "Diversity is not about counting heads, but about making heads count." The value that everyone brings to the campus from their own experiences-that is what makes a college campus a vibrant place. We must be able to share, to benefit and to be enriched by these many different stories every day.
Timothy Austin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College: First, our students leave the College to live, work and (we hope) flourish in a multicultural, multilingual, globally interconnected world. We would think we had failed them terribly if the education we offered did not equip them to handle modern technology; diversity represents an equally non-negotiable aspect of our world and one we must also familiarize them with.
Second, a liberal arts education has always thrived on multiple viewpoints and perspectives. Our mission statement calls us to examine fundamental questions and to be open to the different answers the world offers. And our Jesuit tradition sees God not only in "all things" but-above all-in "all people." So here on campus, everything we claim to be points to the desirability of inclusiveness of all types and in all areas.
Does being a Jesuit institution bring a unique perspective to issues of diversity?
Rev. Paul F. Harman, S.J., vice president for mission: The Jesuits are an international group, and we think internationally. Different people, different cultures, different faiths-that's the context in which Jesuits live and breathe. So diversity doesn't come as a surprise to Jesuits, because God's world is diverse. We also must realize that we're not just talking about race, but also ethnic diversity, age diversity, religious diversity, financial diversity and international diversity. All of these must be considered.
Holy Cross has had a degree of success in the area of diversity. How has this been achieved?
Ann McDermott '79, director of admissions: Change is hard, and it takes time, but a generous gift from B.J. Cassin '55 was one of the reasons we were able to achieve larger numbers in a short amount of time. [In 2002, Cassin made a $1 million grant to further minority recruitment and retention on campus.] We have more staff to target local markets, as well as build a network among community-based agencies that work with students across the country who may not have access to college. Having buy-in from these agencies-knowing they appreciate and believe in our mission-has helped us develop pipelines to get students in our mix that we have not had in the past. So we're on a roll ... but we're continuing to work at this.
We also keep in mind that it's not just a matter of the admissions staff recruiting students and "passing a class off." In the years since Fr. Brooks' efforts to bring African American students here, the entire community has advanced to be more inclusive-changes in curriculum, in cocurricular programs, in residence life-these have all been areas where Holy Cross has worked to promote change that creates a more open environment for all our students.
Jacqueline Peterson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students: I have seen the complexion of campus changing in the 14 years I have been here. My office in the Hogan Center has a large window-it's my window onto the campus, and I remember sitting at my desk, many a day, seeing students walk by, and they were all majority students. It's so different now; there are many students of color.
What about diversity among faculty?
Austin: Like any institution, Holy Cross has to work with (and also against) its own history. Despite Fr. Brooks' groundbreaking work, it is only in the past 10 years that we have begun to enroll the proportion of ALANA students that we should. In the area of faculty and staff employees, we have not made even that degree of progress. There are reasons for this. The entire student body turns over every four years, so change can move relatively quickly. Faculty members often serve for 30 or 40 years before retiring and leaving open a position that offers an opportunity for an inclusive hire.
But such excuses are beside the point. We need to move forward and to do so aggressively. For that reason, I am delighted that seven of our 14 new tenure-track faculty appointments this year were of ALANA teacher-scholars.
As an institution, where can we go from here? When can we say we've reached our goals?
Austin: I really hope that we can work to pair the word diversity with the word inclusivity (or inclusiveness). The goal must be to move toward a campus that is welcoming and affirming for people of all backgrounds and types.
Peterson: We like the term "multiculturally competent." It is our responsibility as educators to fully educate students so they can be leaders and function at the top levels of whatever fields they are in. This means that they should also be competent in terms of multicultural, diverse environments, because that's the world in which we live. That's why it's important not to say, "Well, we have the numbers, we must be all done now."
Fr. Harman: I think success is when we have substantial numbers of different people living and studying and working together-TOGETHER. And there's no magic wand that can achieve that. It's the challenge of human nature: Wherever you go, you find the people you're comfortable with, people who are like you. But we want to encourage honest conversations where people can explore the differences among us-and have unity in our diversity.
McDermott: We have to have critical mass. If you just have a few people, they will feel isolated. Years ago we threw out the number 25 percent, and we couldn't even imagine it really happening. And now we're there-but where do we go? We need to mirror what this country's population looks like, and then we will be achieving an important level of success.
Millner: When inclusivity becomes seamless-a natural part of all that we do as a community-then we will have reached an important goal.