shifting politics

Following the EOP initiative to invite Black students to apply for scholarships for a college education at Muhlenberg, the campus seemed to shift its priorities after the class of 1973 graduated. Administrators, faculty, and students turned their attention away from diversity issues toward pressures from within and from without. The passing of federal government regulations, including Title VII and Title IX, and the increasing awareness of the changing roles of women and Black students and their legal rights, became pressing issues among the many campus concerns. 

Students were vocal about their rights to criticize the administration and faculty. For example, when the basement of the Martin Luther dormitory was scheduled for Summer renovations, including  repurposing the Black Culture Room, Black students protested  and the Muhlenberg Weekly criticized the ousting of the Black Collegians, arguing the room “should remain” for Black students.11  Despite protests, the renovations moved forward, increasing space for all students while also removing the proprietary nature of the Black Culture Room.

Unsatisfied with the curriculum for several years, white student leaders offered Free University  to entertain and provide a unique educational experience. Free U. offered films, panels and speakers such as Marco Dixon, a defeated Socialist Worker candidate for Mayor of Detroit. Dixon spoke about Black Liberation Movement, the Detroit Black Commission on police terror and Watergate. 

The Free University film series extended students’ educational experiences by providing screenings of films and discussions afterward. In October 1974, “A Look at American Minorities” was a two-day series exploring American Blacks, American Indians, and American Youth including two films that explored and compared Martin Luther King’s and Malcom X’s search for Black identity.12   It wouldn’t be until 1984 that the first African American history course was offered at Muhlenberg.

Administratively, the college and faculty faced criticism for gender discrimination in women’s sports, faculty tenure decisions, and housing for women . In October 1974, Dr. Carol Richards, Foreign Languages, launched the Women’s Task Force (WTF) with the full support of President Morey. The WTF organized themselves into sub-committees, including the Title IX Sub-Committee, established to review Title IX guidelines and explore the College’s policies and practices. 

While the period between 1974 and 1984 was an especially exhilarating and productive time for the WTF, facilitating changes in policies and practices, enhancing awareness of the rights of women on campus, and strengthening the educational opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, the task force work did not address specific minority student issues, per se, because it was outside the scope of their directives.13 

However, the College was put on notice during this period regarding its less-than-robust efforts at diversification.  In 1974, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that Muhlenberg was guilty of gender discrimination in the termination of Professor Ana Marie Metzger. In its ruling, the EEOC pointed out:  “Of 316 employees, there are only four blacks — one professor, one in a management position, and two service workers. While we make no finding that this evidence alone constitutes discrimination, we note for Muhlenberg’s information that, where blacks make up such a small portion of the total work force, in appropriate circumstances such statistics may be used to determine that Title VII has been violated.”14 

“ We were sort of on our own, navigating your way in….There were some white students who would remind us that we were tokens”

As the seventies rolled along, students continued to speak up about problems with the administration, the faculty, and the student body. Students wanted a voice in policies discussed at faculty meetings, clamored for more student engagement with Student Council, and urged everyone to stand up for their rights. While the majority voice was white in these publications and events, one thoughtful editorial written by student Harold Hillman ’77 noted there were fewer Black students than when he entered the college, making for an absence of Black culture. 

He pointed out the absence of Blacks in the faculty and administration, as well as the college’s lack of appeal to top-rated Black high school students. Summarizing, Hillman offered advice for helping Black students see value in attending a primarily white college.15  In a 1978 Student Council meeting, the council president opined there were fewer Black students because “the school does not offer much financial aid and because black students would feel uncomfortable in a predominantly white school.”16 


 “I’m pretty sure I was the only local student of color.”

In a related issue voiced at a student-faculty retreat, members noted the lack of diversity in the student body, staff and faculty. Similarly, Admissions Director George Gibbs, in discussing the racial breakdown of the incoming freshman class in the Fall of 1978 in the Muhlenberg Weekly,  said applicants are not required to reveal their racial background. He added, “Muhlenberg has not made a commitment to minority students. You cannot fail to have any blacks on the staff or students on campus and think blacks will come to Muhlenberg; that’s ludicrous.”17 

“[W]e set the applications aside that we thought were minority students and I personally looked, read every one of them… I took a special interest in looking at the minority students, trying to find as many qualified students as I could.”

The student dissatisfaction with the administration, for numerous reasons, including low enrollment, security issues, poor dorm conditions and less than ideal working relationships with President Morey, came to a head in Spring 1978. The Student Council passed a no confidence vote on President Morey and moved to work with the Board of Trustees.18  From Spring 1978 until Spring 1983, the campus, including faculty, students and the administration,  seemed to be living in chaos. By the time the faculty gave a vote of no confidence on Morey, the pressure mounted for the Board of Trustees. Eventually, the President retired, but not before many of the steps to increase minority enrollment had been sidelined by the stressors of the campus.

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