The Breeze Presents Mixed View of Integration
The Madison College student newspaper, The Breeze, is one of the best sources of student perceptions on the integration of their campus. It is significant to mention that The Breeze and its writers prided themselves on being a conservative entity (Breeze 49, no. 6). Despite their supposedly conservative identity, the Breeze represented African-Americans in a largely positive light. Prior to the 70s, it appears that students were struggling slightly with the integration of their campus, and in the October 15, 1969 issue, a sociology professor calls his students out on their Eurocentrism. It appears that students on this southern campus were wary about integration; however, by the 70s things were moving a little more smoothly.
This smoothing of relations may have had something to do with increased emphasis on Affirmative Action or perhaps the increased activism of African-American groups on campus; however, The Breeze began to include advertisements for visiting African-Americans. In the early 70s, an Afro-American dance ensemble performed at Madison College, and according to The Breeze, received a standing ovation from students. This group performed a combination of traditional African dances and was apparently a great hit amongst even the conservative residents of Harrisonburg (Breeze, 49, no. 6).
Not only were these performances outlined in The Breeze but black student athletes also played a prominent role (Breeze 49, no. 5). Student representation in The Breeze could stem from the same motivations that representation in The Bluestone enjoyed. Black students who performed above and beyond Madison’s expectations would be depicted for all to see, so as to ensure students and parents that Affirmative Action did not lower the standards of the college (Thomas, 2013).
In the latter 70s, issues with full integration were still present in The Breeze although they do not focus solely on African-Americans. Instead, a rejected East Indian professor filed a suit against James Madison University, claiming that he had been denied a position based on his race (Breeze 55, no. 1). In addition, in 1977, the HEW investigated a claim that admissions quotas for men were severely lowering the standards of students at the university (Breeze 55, no. 1). The first article shows the Eurocentric mentality still present on the southern institution, and the second depicts the backlash against Affirmative Action.
It is telling, however, that these two articles do not deal with African-Americans. That is not to say that African-Americans have stopped fighting for equal rights, however, considering in November of the same year, there is an article arguing for “more black profs.” The article goes on to espound the necessity of African-American professors and administrators, who would help fix the “white” label associated with James Madison University, to serve as role models for black students, and help create policy changes that would lead to further acceptance and integration (Breeze 55, no 23). This increasing diversity is most likely a product of the implementation of Affirmative Action plans at James Madison University and Carrier’s support of that diversity; however, it is important to note the discrimination still present.
This environment present at James Madison University in late 1977 shows the mentality of much of the nation leading up to the University of California v. Bakke case. In 1978, the case established the principle of reverse discrimination exemplified by the complaint that more male students were being accepted over better qualified women. While the issue of accepting white men seems far from discrimination, Affirmative Action was instrumental in boosting the acceptance of not only minority students, but white males as well. In a traditional women’s normal school, the introduction of both men and minorities to campus radically changed the social atmosphere and the social values of these women.
It is also significant to discuss the word choice of The Breeze. Most often, the word black is used to describe African-Americans. Today, that word might seem disrespectful to certain groups and it seems to imply a sort of juvenility or inferiority. While the term “black” was overwhelmingly used, Afro-American, perhaps more respectful, was also prominent in referencing African Americans. This term, however, was often only used when referring to specific groups, including clubs and African-American studies. Afro-American does become more common, however, in the latter half of the 70s and on.
The Breeze thus manages to depict an entire range of public sentiments on the issue of integration in Harrisonburg. Considering the paper starts off the decade pledging its conservatism, it provides an interesting interpretation of integration. African-American culture is celebrated in dance and athletics, but the backlash against Affirmative Action is certainly present as well. The Breeze, thus, exemplifies the torn nature of Madison College as both a conservative, southern institution, as well as a liberal student environment.
“Afro Dance Their Thing.” Breeze 49, no. 6 (November 6, 1970): 3.
Burch, Barbara. “Discrimination Suit Filed.” Breeze 55, no. 1 (September 2, 1977): 1, 7.
“Field Hockey Squad Seeks 10th Straight win.” Breeze 49, no. 5 (October 30, 1970): 4-5.
Garriss, Harvey M. “Breeze Obsessed?” Breeze 49, no. 6 (November 6, 1970): 6.
“Hew Investigates Quota Use Charges.” Breeze 55, no. 1 (September 2, 1977): 2, 5.
Napp, Dr. R von T. “Sociology Prof Reveals ‘World of Difference’ in Student Attitudes Toward Cross-Cultures.” Breeze 48, no. 3 (October 15, 1969): 3.
Taylor, Carrolet I. “More Black Profs Needed.” Breeze 55, no. 23 (November 22, 1977): 3.
Thomas, Daphyne. Class Speaker. Harrisonburg, VA. February 11, 2013.