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April 12, 1979 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-04-12

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday; April-12, 1979--Page 5
Study says dorm life
di icult for 'U'blacks

Black students' efforts to obtain fun-
ding for cultural and social activities -
as well as their struggles to gain a
political voice in dormitory gover-
nments - were repeatedly thwarted
from 1968 to 1977, according to a study
by the University's College Chapter of
the National Association for the Advan-
cement of Colored People (NAACP).
But some black student leaders said
they felt current conditions on dor-
mitory councils are improving, and ad-
ded they were optimistic about the
DESCRIBED BY its author, Charles
Holman, as "a record of past struggles
to aid black students in future
struggles", the recently-released
report examines the growth of black
and minority organizations in five
University dormitories. Numerous
examples of the difficulties black
students have encountered while trying
to obtain funds from predominantly
white dormitory governments are
outlined in the detailed history presen-
ted in the report.
The focal point of the study centers on
the relations between whites and blacks
in Bursley Hall from 1972 to 1976.
Holman, a former Bursley resident,
relates a personal narrative of the
political and racial turmoil in Bursley
during the mid-70s.
Unlike other residence halls where
blacks formed organizations outside of
the central student government, Bur-
sley had a student government where
blacks and whites were equally
represented. Holman reports that
during the two years (1973-75) this plan
was in effect, black and white residents
coexisted peacefully and represen-
tatives elected black presidents to the
Bursley Board of Governors.
PROBLEMS AROSE in 1975, when an
argument was placed before the Cen-
tral Student Judiciary (CSJ) which
stated that the Bursley student gover-
nment was undemocratic because 50
per cent of the seats were reserved for
blacks and minorities, who only com-
posed 15 per cent of the dormitory's
population. Many other controversies
also arose, and often black and white
representatives were in conflict.
During what Holman called a "cam-
paign of unceasing harrassment,"
black members of the board of gover-
nors were threatened with recall and
received prank phone calls at night. In
an emotional narrative, Holman
described how one member of the
board, under academic stress, had
received a "prank" note threatening
his life. Holman said this harrassment
was a contributing factor to his friends'
subsequent mental breakdown.
HOLMAN ALSO claimed that the
failure of integrated student gover-

nments and the struggles in obtaining
money and a political voice have ad-
versely affected black students,
causing them to devote less attention to
their studies, and increasing mental
and psychological pressure.
The study is meant to expose
problems rather than propose
solutions, explained Holman. "Even
though the report ends in 1977, it is im-
portant for now because these kinds of
things are going on right now," he said.
Andre Strong, a coordinator of the
Housing Office's Project Awareness,
said the status of blacks in dormitory
governments today is not as bad as
those conditions in the time period
outlined in Holman's report.
"BASICALLY, I don't feel things are
as dismal now as he outlined," said
Strong, whose function at Project
Awareness is to try to improve the life
of minority students in dormitories.
Strong said the Minority Peer Advisors,
counselors instituted this year in dor-
mitories, give her continuous feedback
on the status of minority students in the
Project Awareness, in addition to
providing extra funding for minority
organizations in the dormitories, also
sponsors workshops for University staff
to help them deal with minority concer-
ns. Strong said she is interested in
helping minority students "become
more involved, more concerned and
taking more pride in their interests."
Presidents of minority dorm councils
say that the two years since the report
was written have been better for
minority students. Most are generally
optimistic about the future.
really that bad, as I percieved it, but it
has gone down tremendously in the last
three years. Now it's to the point where
it is almost unnoticeable," said David
Jackson, president of ABENG, East
Quad's minority council.
Donna Smith, president of Stock-
well's minority organization-SISTER
-said even though her organization's
attempts to gain two voting seats on
Stockwell's House Council have failed,
she is optimistic.
"I think the dorm is evolving in its at-
titude. Earlier in the year we lost by 100
votes. Last time, about two weeks ago,
we lost by only 12," she said.
The problems with funding, as repor-
ted in Holman's study, have apparently
improved to a certain degree. Most
minority councils receive ap-
proximately 15 per cent of their dorm
governments' money and, according to
Strong, one dormitory has passed an
amendment to its constitution that
guarantees the minority council will
receive a certain amount of money
each year.

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