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A recent release from the USNSA News told in detail of unrest at the University of Chicago stemming from an admission by the U of C administration that Negroes were not permitted to live in several housing units owned by the university. Confronted by members of the Student Government and the Congress of Racial Equality on January 16 with evidence gathered from six apparent cases of discrimination in housing applications, George W. Beadle, university president, stated, "we are proceeding as fast as we can to attain integration as soon as we can. The purpose of the University is to eventually attain stable integration in all phases of community life. We must achieve this at a rate that is tolerable as far as all the people involved are concerned."
The Student Government president quickly issued a statement studded with words such as deplore, shocking, disgraceful, and immoral. On January 17 the chairman of the campus chapter of CORE issued a policy statement urging the administration to "state publicly that the University of Chicago will not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or creed in the renting, leasing, administering, or selling of any property that is owned or controlled by it." The statement also urged the university to "refrain from supporting any other realtor who discriminates on the basis of race, religion, or creed.
Six days later CORE initiated a series of sit-ins outside the president's office. Meanwhile the SG president via the dean of students asked the president: "Is the university willing to discuss changes in its rental policy?" The answer made to the CORE chairman by way of the dean: "I understand the question has been asked as to whether the University is willing to discuss the possibility of change in its policy. The answer is yes. The tradition of discussion of important issues among faculty, administration and students is a long-standing and valuable one at the University of Chicago." The CORE man was quick to reply, again through the dean, that "change" and not "the possibility of change" was the concern.
The situation was complicated by four sit-ins (and four arrests) at the University Realty Corporation, private business. On February 5, President Beadle announced that any other students sitting-in would be suspended from the University. CORE had planned to call off sit-ins the next day. Some time later Beadle attended a CORE meeting and told the group he was getting up a representative committee to study university housing policies.
Admittedly a three-page news release may pass over some important background information. From what is given, however, I would commend the president for his control in the matter. The repeated student action appears contrary to any motion of constructive action. Communication through the dean of students was awkward at best.
One gets the impression that the students intruded suddenly upon an issue which had a long history and expected that all injustice be cleared up by the week's end. The desire to diminish a person (Beadle) while trying to correct the housing problem strikes me as uncalled for and contrary to their purpose. Repeated assault appeared to be an effort to prevent the administration from standing up to a second party in the discussion over this problem. The students seemed to want to be too influential in this matter. A desire for self-aggrandizement, a desire for a one-sided solution, a hesitancy to allow this to become anything but a one-sided solution are all apparent. The end result, study of policies, could have been attained before the awkward public exchange took place.
Since administration officials have life-time careers at stake, a tendency toward slow movement can be understood if not condoned. Since students have but four years to improve their college environment, a desire for quick action can be appreciated. Yet this does not excuse the awkward conventions in human relations which students so often adopt. -- T. M. N.