Black Student Union University of Washington



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Part 6: Results

University officials tried to downplay the sit-in.  They asserted that they had not been forced to accept BSU demands but rather had merely restated preexisting policy.[54]  To some degree this was true.  Odegaard had publicly urged the University community to be more aware of race problems as early as 1965.[55]  However, the sit-in marked a major turning point in UW policy.  Even if it was a restatement of existing commitments, it was a very important restatement.  Without the administration’s agreement to the BSU’s proposal, the positive measures that followed the sit-in would not have taken place in such an expeditious way—if at all or ever.

Within a year’s time, the focus of the University had taken an undeniable new shift with the entire BSU program being implemented.  One clear result was an unprecedented jump in enrollment of people of color.  This was due to a new program, established in the sit-in’s aftermath, called the Special Education Program (SEP).  Dr. Charles Evans, head of the Microbiology department and the Faculty Senate Chair at that time, was appointed by Odegaard to direct the SEP program.  Its purpose was to correct the fact that white students were far more likely to attend college that their counterparts of color[56].  The program included recruitment of new students, tutoring and advising services for students after enrollment. 

BSU members were hired by the University to lead the recruitment effort.  During the summer of 1968 these BSU members looked for young adults with college aspirations in African-American communities, such as in Seattle’s Central District.  However the BSU recruiters were also active in Washington’s Yakima Valley and the Makah Indian Reservation, in order to reach the Chicano and Native American communities.

Due to these efforts, African-American enrollment at UW increased 310%, from 150 students in autumn of 1967 to 465 one year later[57].  Enrollment of Native Americans rose from approximately 25 to 100 and the Chicano student body went from 10 to 90 undergraduates over the same period[58]. 

Once these newly recruited students entered the UW they saw that they had been deprived the necessary preparation to be successful in college.  Therefore, another important part of the SEP program that began that year was tutoring.  Regular tutoring in a variety of subjects, and special preparatory English and math courses, were established to help students of color be successful.[59]

The aftermath of the sit-in also saw dramatic increases in the number of University of Washington faculty and staff of color.  Black UW employees rose from 327 in January 1968 to 493 in October 1968.  Black faculty rose from 7 to the all time high of 15 by 1969, with new professors in the Urban Planning, Medicine, Dentistry, and Engineering departments[60].

The movement to institute a Black Studies program had support from UW faculty members even before the sit-in.  Thus, after the sit-in, the program quickly took shape.  The Black Studies program that started that autumn included courses in Swahili, an Anthropology class called “Social Biology of the American Negro” and a Social Science class “Afro-American History and Culture[61].”  With its visions set in motion, the BSU was victorious.






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