Collegiate Times
December 31, 1989

NAACP Petitions for Curriculum Changes

by Amy Bithell

The Virginia Tech chapter of the NAACP submitted a letter to President James D. McComas Tuesday asking the university to implement a proactive, comprehensive approach to the problem of race relations at Tech.

This action was prompted by a recent incident at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio where a pledge from Tech's chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity allegedly had his picture taken while kissing a black woman.

The action resulted in DKE losing its university affiliation after pleading guilty to charges of hazing and disorderly conduct.

In the letter, Gordon A. Rowe, Jr., president of the NAACP, said this incident was an act of racial harassment which was particularly demeaning to black women and women in general. "I feel that the university's punitive response was appropriate, but I also think that there must be some kind of rehabilitative or educational response as well.

"Two racially offensive incidents occurred last year when members of the Delta Gamma and Kappa Delta sororities performed skits in blackface.

"Lacking a comprehensive response to these actions, another incident occurred. These incidents indicate that racism is a problem at Tech," he said.

Rowe said student response to the two race relations forums held earlier this year indicate that a large group of students are concerned about racial issues and are willing to take positive steps to eradicate racism and discrimination.

In its letter, the NAACP called for the university to implement four demands in order to improve race relations at Tech.

The first demand was the addition of a race relations class to the curriculum which would be mandatory for all incoming freshmen. This course would focus on the problems of different minority groups in American society as well as their contributions to American civilization.

Rowe said, "If a person is a blatant racist there is not much that can be done for them, but the larger group of students are victims of a lack of knowledge.

"The race relations course will help students gain sensitivity and awareness of the minority groups and that awareness will prevent incidents like this from happening again."

The NAACP also asked that racial sensitivity workshops be implemented for fraternities and sororities and that an educational penalty for racial harassment be imposed upon any offending group. This would include 100 hours of community service and mandatory attendance at a series of race relations workshops.

"I hope that these actions stem from ignorance rather than racism" Rowe said. "The community service and the race sensitivity workshops would be beneficial in that respect and educate people so this will not happen again."

The letter also calls for the administration to add a black studies program to the curriculum.

Row said this request has been made several times, but no action has been taken.

"Several schools across the country have implemented black studies programs," Rowe said. "The University of Virginia added an African American studies program in 1981 that is very similar to the program that we want here at Tech."

Rowe said this program would give students the chance to major or minor in black in black studies.

Courses would be offered in African history, African languages and Afro-American history. The program also would increase the number of black instructors at Tech and eventually attract more black students.

"The Virginia legislature has set a 10 percent guideline but only 3 percent of Tech's students are black." Rowe said.

Also, "The history of black people is not included in history books," Rowe said. "The African History course that is offered at Tech only covers African history after the European colonization. It's very important to get the proper perspective on history.

"I hope that Dr. McComas will look at our requests seriously, even if he does not agree with them," he said. "He has said in the past that he was willing to work with students to solve these problems.

"We have asked that Dr. McComas respond to our letter before the end of the semester. We feel that these are very reasonable requests and we are not ready to compromise," Rowe said.

McComas was not available for comment but his office said he has received the letter and is working on a response.