Crisis in Southern Colleges article
Describes response of college administrations to student demonstrations at Southern universities
Crisis in Southern Colleges article searchable textCollapse
[manuscript begins in medias res]
“before sundown.” The president did just that.
A teacher of twenty-seven years’ experience, Dr. Reddick was the author of a biography of Martin Luther King and a companion of King’s on a trip to India. He made vigorous demand [sic] for his rights and received the full support of the American Association of University Professors and the American Civil Liberties Union. In spite of this, he was dismissed in violation of his contract, without a hearing, without seeing the charges and evidence against him, and without salary due.
The humiliations of President Trenholm were not yet ended. Before the television camera Governor Patterson exacted from him promises to keep “a close watch” on students, to retain only such members of the faculty as maintained “proper conduct,” and to “enforce more strictly” the admission requirements for students. The opening of the college the next fall was long delayed while the president personally interviewed applicants. He required all to sign an “oath of honor” pledging “gentlemanly” and “ladylike” conduct, and inquired closely into their associations and acquaintances. The president admitted numerous candidates, including the president of the student body, only on probation. Enrollment fell off sharply, vacancies in the faculty remained unfilled, and the Southern Association of Colleges, which carried Alabama State on its probationary list of accredited institutions, dropped it. And in spite of Trenholm’s compliant policy, Patterson removed him from office and placed him “on leave.”
In the meantime Tennessee, Georgia, and Louisiana followed Alabama’s example. In April 1960, the Tennessee State Commissioner of Education instructed all state colleges to “dismiss promptly any student…arrested and convicted on charges involving personal misconduct.”
In May of the following year, fourteen students at Tennessee A & I State University in Nashville joined the Freedom Ride through Alabama after the sponsoring organization, CORE, had decided the going was too rough and called off the ride. The Tennessee students survived the riots and imprisonment, but Governor Buford Ellington saw to it that thirteen of them were expelled from college without a hearing. Under threat of a student boycott of commencement, the Governor permitted the fourteenth student to graduate with her class. The others brought suit and eight of them were ordered readmitted by a federal court.
After the mass demonstrations at Albany, Georgia, which led to the arrest of seven [line missing]
the local college suspended more than forty students for “conduct detrimental to Albany State College,” in sharp contrast to the lenient treatment of the white students who demonstrated a year before in favor of segregation at the University of Georgia. In January, some thirty Negro students of Alabama A & M College joined sit-in demonstrations at Huntsville in northern Alabama. Whereupon Governor Patterson removed the president of the college with the professed purpose of finding another “who will require discipline, make the students behave, and make them study.”
In President Felton G. Clark of Southern University, Louisiana found a disciplinarian who needed little gubernatorial prompting. The largest institution of higher learning in American with an all-Negro student body, Southern occupies a new campus full of striking contemporary architecture near Baton Rouge. Last December more than a thousand students from Southern marched to Baton Rouge jail to protest the imprisonment of twenty-two fellow students. Police broke up the demonstration with tear gas and jailed fifty. The next day the State Board of Education ordered the automatic expulsion of any student arrested or jailed and forbade all unsanctioned demonstrations.
President Clark not only complied with the board ruling but closed the university until after Christmas holidays. Students had scarcely returned when further protest prompted Clark to close the university again until further notice. He ordered every student off the campus with his belongings by five-thirty that afternoon. Upon reopening ten days later, the president required all students readmitted to register anew. The purpose, according to the Baton Rouge State-Times, was “to weed out trouble makers.” The number denied readmission has not been revealed, but a hundred students were simply not informed of the reopening and some two hundred were readmitted on probation after “good citizenship” pledges. Among those who did not return, according to well-informed faculty members, were many of the best students and campus leaders. “We at Southern,” declared President Clark, “are interested in education, and nothing else.”
Privately supported Negro colleges have put up a better defense, but they are by no means immune from state pressures. Sit-in demonstrations by students of Talladega College, which has a few white students, brought Alabama’s Attorney General MacDonald Gallion down upon them last April with an injunction prohibiting [manuscript ends]Collapse