Spring 2015Date Released: 6 April 2015
"We Belong Here!" This was the rally call for a recent demonstration by undergraduates of Case Western Reserve University, who spoke up to say we will not accept a marginalized status. We belong at CWRU's highest level of academic expectation. As an alumnus of CWRU, I was very proud of this demonstration. It captured a memory from my freshman year. Something seemed very familiar about this controversy, but also something was refreshingly different about how it was dealt with by the university.
I entered Case Western Reserve in the fall of 1974, after debating for many months where to attend college. I selected CWRU for many academic and personal reasons. I know now that I made the best choice, but I had serious doubts during the first month of school, when it was announced that the university would host a debate between Roy Innis and William Shockley, PhD. Innis, an American activist, has been National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) since 1968. Shockley, a physicist, was a member of the research group that invented the transistor. The question of the Shockley/Innis debate was to be genetic inheritance of intelligence and race. Shockley believed that African Americans were genetically less intelligent than whites. He further argued that intelligence in African Americans was directly proportional to their percentage of Caucasian blood. While those beliefs are most troubling, the social policy proposed was even more disturbing. Mr. Shockley called for a thinking exercise based on the idea of cash government bonuses for people with genetic deficiencies, including low intelligence, who would voluntarily undergo sterilization. The fact that this debate was being allowed on campus sent a very clear message to me “You don’t belong here.”
This was not just a concern for CWRU. The debate had also been scheduled for Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. But, at each school when administrators, students, law professors, etc. raised issues with the leadership, the debate had been cancelled. Efforts to cancel the debate were unsuccessful at CWRU, consequently it was ended by African American and non-African American protesters, mostly students, who blew whistles the entire time. They blew whistles in 1974 to say we belong at CWRU, and this debate does not. Those who were thought of as the ring leaders of the protest were threatened with expulsion from the university and put on social probation.
The welcomed difference between the 1974 protest and the recent 2014 "We Belong Here" movement is the university's response. In 1974, there seemed to be little awareness of the impact such a debate would have on the African American students. Seemingly, insensitivity may still exist on campus, creating an atmosphere that again requires an explicit pronouncement that "We belong here." However, when the protesters received racist public comments via social media regarding their movement, President Barbara R. Snyder responded with an open letter of support for their right to stand and declare "We belong here!" Instead of threatening, she gave voice to their complaint. In addition, the faculty senate wrote a letter in support of her action. This difference in response may be an indication that the time is right to create a CWRU vision of inclusivity, with focus on the university's stated strategic goals: improve campus climate, increase retention and recruitment of underrepresented students, faculty and staff and enhance leveraging and development of resources to advance diversity and inclusion. Though chance can be a slow process, it is important to mark successful steps along the way. We thank you, "We Belong Here" Movement and President Snyder, for your leadership.
We thank you, "We Belong Here" Movement and President Snyder, for your leadership.
—Linda Sharpe-Taylor, PhD (WRC '78)
Did You Know?
Michael E. Fisher
The African American Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University had its origins in a close-knit group of friends who were students on campus in the 1970’s and stayed connected through the next 30 years with the help of social gatherings. These alumni included activist and public servant Stephanie Tubbs Jones (FSM '71, LAW ’74), who was the first African American Congresswoman from Ohio, and a long-time supporter and mentor to incoming African American students.
Michael E. Fisher was a CWRU administrator in the 1970’s whose personal crusade led to increased African American undergraduate enrollment at the university, including an influx of more than 250 African American students in a few short years. The cohesiveness of the African American students on campus at that time is partially attributed to his dedication.
Come on Down!
Come on down; come on up; come on over- but please come! The Fisher/Tubbs Jones MemorialCommittee invites you to celebrate the lives of Fisher and Jones this summer at a memorial dinner in their honor. An informal Friday evening reception will kick off the festivities. Saturday evening's dinner will include music, dancing and a program during which we will honor and memorialize others as well. Suggestions for local daytime cultural activities and sight-seeing tours will also be provided. Please include your full name as you respond to the following questions by April 14. Responses will be gathered and plans made accordingly More information will be forthcoming. Please reply to email@example.com.
We look forward to seeing you!
1. Are you interested in coming to the Michael E. Fisher-Stephanie Tubbs Jones Memorial dinner?
2. If interested, in which of the following two cities would you prefer to attend the event?
3. During which of the following weekends in 2015 would you prefer to attend the event?
Other suggested dates:
4. Other comments:
New Facebook Policy
In an effort to maintain consistency in our Facebook presence, as well as abide by the policy of University Marketing and Communications (UMC), we will deactivate our current African American Alumni Association (AAAA) Facebook group, and transition to a Facebook page.
UMC Policy states: "if you open or run a social media account that bears any named relationship to the university (i.e., contains the name 'Case Western Reserve University' or 'CWRU' or the like), it must be accessible by the university's emergency response team." A Facebook page will allow multiple administrators, including The Alumni Association's emergency response representative, to have access, as well as designated representatives from the AAAA. This change will ensure that 1) the AAAA Facebook account abides by UMC policy and can communicate uniform messaging during a crisis; 2) all content posted to the page is appropriate and supports the mission of the AAAA.
The current Facebook group will be deactivated once university representatives have conveyed this message to alumni.
Please "like" our new Case Western Reserve University--African American Alumni Association Facebook page, and help spread the word!
Save the Dates
- Cultural Dinner, 7 p.m., April 9, Thwing Atrium
Sponsored by the African American Society
- The 25th Annual Unity Banquet at 7 p.m., April 10, Tinkham Veale University Center
Keynote speaker, Jeff Johnson, journalist
Musical appearance by Javier Colon, winner of The Voice
Register at: http://students.case.edu/events/unitybanquet/
- Voices of Glory Concert, 5:30 p.m., April 18, in John Hay Auditorium
Benefit concert by CWRU's Gospel Choir
Completed 12 credit hours, but not a member of the CWRU African American Alumni Association? To register, please click here.
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