Virginia Tech Spectrum
October 25, 1984

Tech Exceeds Desegregation Goals

by Liz Crumbley

For the first two years of the three-year state desegregation plan for higher education, Virginia Tech has exceeded the numerical goals set in three out of four major categories. The goals for the 39 colleges and universities of Civil Rights and the Virginia Council of Higher Education in response to a court order by Federal District Judge John H. Pratt.

Tech's goal for first-time, black graduate students for the 1984-85 academic year was set at 20; 65 are enrolled. The goal for new black faculty members was seven and the university has recruited 11 in this category. The goal for new black staff members has been set at 17. Although the official count for this category cannot be made until the end of the fiscal year in June 1985, Judy Johnson, Tech's Equal Opportunity Officer, said the university will again exceed this goal, as it did last year by 24 employees.

John Perry, vice president for academic administration, and Roger Teekell, dean of the graduate school, credit college deans, department heads, and search committees which the success in faculty and graduate student recruitment. "We have attracted some first-rate people whom we are proud to have in our classrooms, instead of just meeting numerical goals," Perry said. "That is our greatest success."

Virginia and 18 other states have been under a federal court order since the NAACP Legal and Education Defense Fund filed suit against the states in 1969. The terms of the desegregation plan have been re-negotiated periodically in Virginia, and Tech has shifted its recruitment emphasis to meet the goals for this latest plan.

"In the case of faculty recruitment, we found that we had to engage in active search instead of just being an equal opportunity employer," explained Perry. "We lured some very fine people away form other jobs, rather than simply waiting for new faculty to investigate our job openings."

Perry is pleased that the new faculty members cover a broad range of academic fields and that four were hired as full professors. "Our future goals, beyond this three-year plan, are to be concerned continually about a healthy mix of faculty who can bring valuable experience and perspective to the university."

Myrtle Brown, who became associate dean of the graduate school in February of this year after coming to Tech last September as a visiting professor, said that the university itself has been the real lure for graduate students, both black and white. "Until the past several years, Tech has been a well-kept secret. Its image is changing now - to a nationally known and respected institution for graduate research. The people at Tech are making the change. It's quite exciting to be a part of this."

Brown is pleased with the results of this year's enrollment: "The quality of graduate students is quite high. We concentrate on quality rather than numbers per se. It's a disservice to any student to be admitted unless there's a reasonable chance that the student will succeed in graduate school. Ultimately, concentrating on numbers rather than quality is damaging not only to the student but also to the reputation of individual departments and to the university as a whole."

Tech fell short of its undergraduate student goal, as did most of the state's traditionally white institutions. Calvin Jamison, assistant director of admissions now on educational sabbatical at the university, has worked with desegregation goals at Tech since 1977 and is president of the Virginia Admissions Council on Black Concerns (VACBC), formed in 1983f to help all state admissions officers and support personnel deal with this problem. He explained the recruitment difficulties that prevent schools from meeting the undergraduate goal. All students counted toward the undergraduate and graduate goals must be Virginia residents.

"VACBC realized that there was a duplication of applications," he said. Many of the same students were applying to several state institutions, so that, although many schools seemed to have more than enough black applicants to meet the goal, there were not really that many students.

"The goal of the VACBC as well as the university is not to be concerned about the number as about the quality of students," Jamison said. "At Tech, since 1977, we have been steadily increasing the number of black students without sacrificing our standards or making impossible promises to students. The enrollment of black students has increased by 400 percent since 1978.

"What we all want to avoid is a revolving-door situation--students being recruited just for head-counts when they aren't ready for academic pressures at schools like Tech. This kind of situation hurts the very students that the desegregation plan is meant to help."

Glenn Valentine, assistant director of admissions, noted that Tech admissions officers visited 70 high schools last year and that they hoped to be even more active this year. "Many black students want to attend a traditionally white university because they realize they won't be working in a predominantly black world when they leave college."