The Black Student Union deserves a special place in the history of the University of Washington. The record of its first year is nothing less than remarkable. With exemplary determination and extraordinary success, the BSU was the first organization on campus to militantly advocate for people of color. Within one year this student organization transformed the University into a place that concretely addressed racial inequality. Despite initial resistance, all of the BSU demands were eventually implemented by the administration, leaving the UW profoundly changed.
All too often history is conceptualized as something dead and gone, with no affect on the present. However, with the BSU’s story, it is easy to see the connection between the past and present: many of the programs implemented after the sit-in still exist today. In 1970, Samuel E. Kelly was appointed the first Vice President of Minority Affairs, and under his Office of Minority Affairs (OMA) these post sit-in reforms were coordinated together. During this time SEP became the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and continued to provide recruitment and retention support for underrepresented UW students (including poor whites). The tutoring services were also brought under the supervision of the OMA in 1970, and in 1976 the tutoring services were further consolidated into the Instructional Center (IC). All of these entities—OMA, EOP and IC—can be found at UW today.
Another result of the BSU’s legacy is the UW’s current American Ethnic Studies department. The successful creation of the Black Studies program encouraged students to demand Chicano and Asian-American Studies programs. Later, the Black Studies program merged with the Chicano Studies and Asian-American studies to create the department of American Ethnic Studies. Therefore, the American Ethnic Studies department also owes a debt of gratitude to the Black Student Union.
Finally, the BSU legacy also includes the Ethnic Cultural Center. It was completed three years after the sit-in to give students of color a much-needed place to feel comfortable, and it is yet another modern day monument to the efforts of the BSU. Taken together, all of these outcomes illustrate the fact that the Black Student Union made important contributions to the University of Washington.