- "The Neenan Tapes," Fr. Neenan reflects on his early years as a Jesuit (pg. 14)
- "Book Report," Neenan discusses the Dean's List, his annual annotated lineup of recommended reading (pg.14)
- "Faith and Discovery at Boston College," Neenan's address at Parents' Weekend 2005 (pg. 14)
- Collection of Agape Latte talks, from C21 (pg. 38)
- "Para Continuar," a one-question interview with Hosffman Ospino on the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry (pg. 40)
- Construction webcam overlooking 2150 Commonwealth Avenue (pg. 43)
- Recent undergraduate theses, digitized by University Libraries (pg. 13)
- "In the Heartland," BCM, Summer 1993: Fr. Neenan recounts growing up in Sioux City, Iowa (pg. 14)
- Summary report from the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry (pg. 40)
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Power of the people
An oral history of the Black Talent program
In 1968, Boston College launched its first organized effort at racial inclusion. Remarkably—and perhaps uniquely—the program went on to be managed by the very students it recruited. Equally remarkably, this arrangement appears to have mostly worked.
The country was putting out fires in the spring of 1968. Ignited by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in April, rioting broke out in more than 100 cities. As a presidential commission had reported in February, the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Universities hurried to open their doors to disadvantaged African Americans, and Boston College joined the scramble. At the time, the University was whiter even than many schools in the segregated South, with an African-American enrollment of 13 out of 6,975 undergraduates.
Boston College’s motivations for recruiting black students were both internal and external. The externals included a visit in May by four investigators from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, looking into whether the University was dispersing its federal money in harmony with provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This followed a 1967 letter to U.S. Jesuits from their beloved superior, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, insisting that “American Jesuits cannot, must not, stand aloof” from the claims and demands of “the Negro.” Arrupe specified that Jesuit universities would need to assist blacks in meeting entrance requirements and provide them with “special scholarships.”
Boston College’s Black Talent program was up and running by the fall of 1968. The program sprang from a “Negro Talent Search” launched earlier that year by outgoing president Michael P. Walsh, SJ, with a $100,000, four-year commitment to scholarships and recruiting—a substantial sum for a University that routinely found itself strapped financially. (A year’s tuition then amounted to $1,600.) According to varying official accounts, the Negro Talent Search yielded between 34 and 48 new black students for that September.
Students did not start out running the program. But two and a half years—and one building takeover—later, in early 1971, it was theirs. For a time under their management, the application form for admission to Boston College through the Black Talent program bore the image of the red-black-and-green Black Nationalist flag.
What follows are remembrances from the Black Talent era at Boston College, from students, faculty, and administrators who had significant roles during it.
Harold Petersen began teaching at Boston College in 1960. He is a professor of economics.
Harold Petersen: I was born in a small town in Minnesota. The only black people I ever saw were the conductors when the train came through town. When I came to Boston, I got caught up in the civil rights movement, along with many others. I was involved in the Housing Foundation in Brookline. I was involved, through my church, in putting up posters against racism on the trolley cars. I cared deeply about the issues. And it struck me that perhaps I could try teaching a course in the Black Talent program, on black economic development in the United States.
The first time I taught it was in the spring of 1970. I had 15 students, all black and, I think, all freshmen—something very, very different from what we would have thought proper. We’re not supposed to have segregated classes, particularly when we bring in black students.
The thought was that by having one or two classes where [African-American] freshmen could feel a lot of mutual support, could begin to enter into discussions, that this might help ease the transition for them. Defensible or not, the course was not listed with the other courses. It was closed to white students, effectively.
One of the freshmen was David Silva. He was a great kid. Tall kid. Handsome kid. Articulate. But he was struggling with some inner demons. He shot himself later that year, and when I went to the funeral, what struck me was that the congregation was almost all white. His family was from the Cape Verde Islands. They saw themselves as Portuguese. But David was as black as Barack Obama, and he was a militant leader, caught up in the Black Power movement. Something in the transition from his community to his world at Boston College was too much for him, and a great leader was lost.
We wanted more black students, because we thought it would be good for everybody here. But we needed to bring in students who had a chance to succeed, and we needed to give them the help that was required—academic, emotional, whatever support they needed.
That course on black economic development didn’t work very well. It’s a subject that [requires] some prior economics background, and these kids were from struggling backgrounds anyway. We did some things on the history of slavery, on the case for reparations [for descendants of slaves], on successful black enterprises. It was mercifully interrupted by the strike.
The spring of 1970 was a tumultuous time at Boston College. There were two full-blown student strikes, and on three separate occasions students took over University buildings, including Botolph House, which housed the offices of President Seavey Joyce, SJ, and Gasson Hall, which held the treasurer’s and financial aid offices. Petersen is referring to the April general student strike over tuition increases, which in May gave way to a strike over the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. At that time, Boston College was operating at a deficit. On the verge of bankruptcy, the University announced a $500 rise in tuition, to $2,500.
In the Black Talent program, students had already grown accustomed to asserting themselves, and not just over financial matters. A. Robert Phillips was an official with the Urban League of Boston when he was hired by Boston College to direct the Black Talent program in June 1969, succeeding Ted Lockhart, a Baptist minister, whose tenure was brief.
A. Robert Phillips: The thing that everybody should know about the program is that it was all about the students [even before students officially took control]. What I did as director was to take a whole lot of crap from bigots on the campus. What I said was: Okay, fine. Here I am. I’m the director. I’ll put up with that, and I’ll have to get the resources that may be available to make this program work.
So, if the program was about the students and not about me, then students should be involved in every possible aspect of the program. We had student counselors. We had student administrators. We had student recruiters, tutors, and advisors. They went with me to meetings [with University administrators]. They also went to meetings and conferences with me off-campus, to represent themselves and the program.
I would say to a student, my job is to open the door so that you can get into the classroom or lab. Your job is to tell me what resources you need once you walk into that classroom, because this University is very rich in resources, very rich in its academic drive, very rich in its rigorous preparatory and study program. Unfortunately, not all the doors were open, so that was my job. I kicked the door open.
Even the black faculty [of whom there were barely a handful] were undermining the effort. They said I was putting more on the students than the students were capable of handling. They did not want students making decisions about their own destiny. They just didn’t want that.
Phillips’s goal at Boston College was to make Black Talent a totally student-run program.
Phillips: Yes, absolutely, for a number of reasons, not the least of which—I was treated pretty badly when I was here. I had to fight for an office. I had to fight for office supplies.
I had to fight to get the trash emptied. And frankly, tactically, it’s a helluva lot harder to wage that kind of abuse against 50, 75 students. This was a one-man target until I included students in the process. So maybe they [his opponents] could wipe me out and wreck the program, but by including the students, it wasn’t that easy. The program continued for years after I left. If students were not involved at the outset, I assure you that would not have happened.
On Wednesday, March 18, 1970, Black Talent students mounted a takeover of Gasson Hall, to call attention to a host of grievances. Carl Lewis ’72 was president of the Black Student Forum that spring. He went on to a career as a political consultant and civil servant.
Carl Lewis: We kept asking for things such as more [scholarship] money for students. More special programs, like tutoring in math or basic study skills. More black history or black studies programs. Transportation—because we were out there [in Chestnut Hill], away from the black community, and had no way of getting around. And we kept being met with, “Well, we don’t have the money.” We also wanted a black dorm.
We had two meetings the night before we took over the building. The first was to let people know that there was a plan. Sixty or 70 people came over to the Black Talent office [on the first floor of Lyons Hall] for that meeting. But the details weren’t revealed until the second meeting. Before going into that meeting, people had to agree to stay in the office all night, because we didn’t want the word to get out. The office was packed—there must have been 40 people there for the night. There were a couple of students who said they had to leave. And of course there’s no way we could keep them there other than tying them up, so they got out. But the word did not get out about the takeover.
We went [into Gasson Hall] somewhere around six o’clock in the morning. There was a maintenance man in there, working. One of the students went over and said that he had left a book and he had to get it for his studies. The maintenance man let him in. The student in turn let the group in. And we threw the maintenance man out. And then we chained the doors.
We waited until about nine o’clock, or a little earlier. And nothing was happening. Nothing. No one was coming to the door. So we had to get word out that there was something going on. No students knew what was going on in Gasson Hall, and there was no media. Somebody had the idea to get into the bell tower and ring the bells. They kept ringing the bells and the next thing you know, the place was packed—on the outside.
Boston College—Fr. Joyce—did not call the police, which was kind of surprising to me because that was the normal tactic [on other campuses]. The police were outside the gates and on the side streets, but they never came on campus.
Michael Jones ’72, JD’76, is currently chief operating officer of the Public Broadcasting System in Washington, D.C., and a former University trustee. In fall 1970, he was elected president of the Black Student Forum.
Michael Jones: I was not inside Gasson Hall. I was on the outside, negotiating off and on with people from the administration, including Al Folkard [then director of the Arts & Sciences honors program, which was housed across the hall from the Black Talent program in Lyons]. I might have talked a little with Jim McIntyre [then vice president for student affairs, now a senior vice president]—he’s the person who actually recruited me to Boston College from Brooklyn Prep, a Jesuit high school. We talked about the student demands, and how we might go about resolving this. They let us know when the University thought it would take further action to vacate Gasson. It was going to happen soon, by early evening.
I think you saw the best and worst of Boston College that day, the best and worst of people at that time in America. It was a reflection not only of the tensions surrounding the Black Talent program; there were a lot of things going on at the time—Black Power, the Vietnam War, the economic situation of the school, the transition from Boston College being a commuter-based institution to a resident-based institution.
So tensions were high, and students, I think on both sides, exhibited extreme behavior. You had white students picketing around Gasson Hall with signs that had racially derogatory remarks on them. They shouted racial slurs and formed a blockade to stop food from going in the building. And you had black students inside Gasson Hall who felt that [the signs with racial epithets] represented what Boston College was all about. It was not a pleasant day.
To the school’s credit, they [President Joyce and other administrators] worked it through so that it didn’t reach a level of tension that would become violent. And it’s not true that all of the white students were against the protest; some were supporting us.
According to an account in the Boston Globe, about 70 black students wound up inside Gasson Hall during the 10-hour occupation, while roughly 200 students joined in protests and counterprotests outside. “Occasional scuffling broke out among white students who were arguing about the merits of the take-over,” the paper reported.
Jones: You have to remember that Boston was a lot different then. You had the busing controversy going on. There were a lot of things happening at the time that were racially divisive. The student body certainly represented what was going on in the city.
I was able, in a sense, to understand both sides. I understood the financial stresses that the University was under. But I felt there were certain things Boston College had to do if it wanted to integrate black students more fully into college life. And that didn’t just mean a moral commitment. It meant a serious financial commitment.
The action at Gasson Hall ended with the administration moving toward some of the students’ demands—including access to what the Globe described as “two vehicles” for transportation to a community center in Dorchester and a pledge (with no deadline) to ramp up the enrollment of blacks to 10 percent. By the summer of 1970, the University was also beginning to relent on the notion of a blacks-only dorm.
Jones: The University hadn’t fully signed off on the idea. But as I recall, some Black Talent students [during the summer] just moved into Fenwick Hall. They didn’t move in without the University being aware of it. The University always had the option of removing them. And it chose not to.
I wouldn’t say in retrospect that Fenwick was a Gasson Hall. And it wasn’t a full homesteading effort, either. Some of the students were actually housed in Fenwick for summer orientation programs.
Fenwick was a difficult step for the University. You had, on the one hand, people who felt that the University’s commitment to black students meant that students should be fully integrated. On the other hand, you had those who felt this would help transition the students more smoothly into the community. The dorm was certainly something the black students wanted at the time. And as a student representative I did try to make it happen.
In the fall, Fenwick Hall was designated as the Black Talent dorm, thereby becoming also the University’s first coed residence. But the most striking concession—student control of the Black Talent program—was still to come.
Harold Petersen: In November of 1970, Frank Shea [Francis X. Shea, SJ, then executive vice president] called me into his office, along with Al Folkard. Frank told us that the Black Talent program was in trouble. A. Robert Phillips, the director, had committed more than two-thirds of the budget during the first semester of that year, and Frank was looking at a substantial deficit for the spring.
Apart from that, Frank Shea had his own ideas about what Boston College should be doing. He said, the Ivies are skimming off all the best [black] students. He said, we’re going to take the kids who, if they weren’t here, would be on the streets or in jail, and we’re going to give them a first-rate college education. I remember thinking, “Thank God, Phillips isn’t listening to him. Phillips is getting the best students he can and a number of them are very, very good.”
An urban legend emerged: of Boston College sending a chartered bus to the Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston and inviting any and all black high-school graduates to board and come matriculate in Chestnut Hill. There is no evidence that this ever happened.
Petersen: Al [Folkard] said he thought he could work something out [on the budget]. He was very good at that—and he did. The students took huge cuts for the spring term. They took out loans to cover their expenses. And in return, they were given control of the program. A. Robert Phillips resigned [in January 1971], having achieved what he always wanted, a black student program wholly under student control.
Asked about Shea’s meeting with Petersen and Folkard, Phillips said he “knew nothing” about it—”I was never consulted.” As for Shea’s ideas on inner-city recruitment, Phillips concurred, up to a point.
A. Robert Phillips: It wasn’t open admission. I agreed with the notion that you can’t open up the doors and say anybody can come here, and devalue that to which they’re being exposed.
But I did not go to the upper-middle-class black families. I saw no need for that. I went exactly to where Frank Shea was talking about. I went to the housing projects. I went to kids who came from broken families; who were not themselves on drugs, but whose contemporaries were; who had members of the family who were in and out of jail. But they had to show some indication of the initiative that one has to take to get through school. And we were getting some very good students.
Yes, I brought in more students [including an additional 45 between being hired in June 1969 and the start of classes in the fall, according to an official account]. But I never overspent the budget. At the time, there was no identified budget. My task was to identify the cost and the expense of the program. And what I did not want was for any student in the program to graduate in debt. There was no need to create debt for these kids. So they received the full package.
The circumstances were such that I wasn’t going to be able to function with the underhanded fights that were going on. What I did was I offered my resignation. And I would submit that student control came about simply because it was their program. They wanted to run it, and they knew the details of the program and how to run it.
The students became the administrators. As president of the Black Student Forum, Michael Jones (of the Gasson Hall negotiations) became, ex officio, the first student to head the Black Talent program, in early 1971. Carl Lewis, who’d led the Gasson takeover, would act as the program’s financial manager. A kind of competition developed between the students running Black Talent and University admission officers, who continued to seek African-American students, too. John “Jack” Maguire ’61, Ph.D.’66, served as dean of University admission from 1971 to 1983. He went on to found the higher-education consulting firm Maguire Associates.
Jack Maguire: In those days, the admission office would admit a black student, say, from New York, and give the student a $5,000 grant. And the student would agree to come. And then within a week, you’d find that the student had been admitted to the Black Talent program and given a $10,000 award.
I spent a lot of time talking about this with two student leaders, Julianne Malveaux and Howard McLendon. They were intellectual militants. They were tough, but they were fair, and I always had great respect for them. I was basically saying: This can’t hold. If we want to enroll the optimal number of students of color, we can’t be competing with ourselves, we’ve got to have one admission program, not two.
Julianne Malveaux entered Boston College without finishing high school. She is an economist (with a Ph.D. from MIT) who is now president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Julianne Malveaux: It was empowering. I don’t think it was necessarily the way others thought a campus should be run, and frankly, if my students tried that with me today, I’d say [skeptically]—”Hmm, interesting idea.” But the 1970s were uppity times and students were talking about the voices and the roles they should have in university administration. So while the Black Talent program was unique, I think you have to look at it contextually.
We admitted students. We had the applications come to us, and we made admission decisions. We made academic decisions about putting each other on probation, about whether students should be dismissed if they had poor academic performance. Often it was awkward, but that’s what we did. We ran the office. We ran the office budget. Many of us were recruiters. We went to conferences to talk to students about coming to Boston College. We represented the college at conferences all over the country. Yeah, we did it all.
Depending on who’s recollecting, graduation rates from the Black Talent program were either as low as 20 percent at times or competitive with general University rates or somewhere in between. Sparse record-keeping is partly at fault, but there are also counting questions, such as whether someone who turned up at a freshman orientation and decamped to Roxbury after a day should be recorded as a dropout.
Maguire: Retention of students in the program was troubling. It’s one thing to admit a whole set of students. It’s another to graduate them. Higher education prides itself on credentialing. We would not consider it a success if we simply helped people to become more knowledgeable—if we didn’t also graduate them and give them a bachelor’s degree. That was our goal at Boston College.
Malveaux: Let me say this. Even one year’s worth of exposure to a college environment makes a significant difference, according to the data, to an African-American person who has not been exposed to college. You don’t know if someone who dropped out in their freshman or sophomore year, two, three, five years later, didn’t matriculate somewhere else—and if that one or two years opened them up to a whole set of possibilities. I think the Black Talent program was a very important, extraordinarily significant, and life-transforming program—for students who finished Boston College, and for those who did not.
I didn’t have a high school diploma. So let’s talk about people without high school diplomas. I came out of the 11th grade. I have a doctorate from MIT. A high school diploma in and of itself should not qualify or disqualify.
Harold Petersen: I thought it was a mistake—I didn’t think it was wise to put students in charge of admission, financial aid, and budget. But I have to say, the students did an excellent job running the program. They went after the best students they could find, and their handling of the finances was, to the best of my knowledge, always above board.
After a couple of years of this arrangement, student control of Black Talent became a flashpoint of contention even among black students. Some students began to grow weary of the administrative burdens and talked of returning to a more traditional academic environment. Othello Mahome ’74 ran the program as a sophomore, in 1971–72. He is now a real estate developer in Washington, D.C.
Othello Mahome: The times just changed. Students came in and benefited from the things we had done. In a sense it was progress—they didn’t have to fight the kinds of fights we had to fight. People challenged our presence on campus. Some didn’t think we belonged there. But after continual exposure, the Eagle didn’t fall off its pedestal [laughs], and they [white students] realized, “Hey, they could do other things besides play basketball.” And in fact it enriched their experience on campus.
And so, new students didn’t have a chip on their shoulders. They were accepted by the campus community.
Rev. Howard McLendon ’75 was president of the Black Student Forum and coordinated the Black Talent program in 1972–73. He is now the interfaith campus minister at the University.
Rev. Howard McLendon: We had 200 students at that point on campus. We had an institutional budget of half a million dollars, and for a while we were overseeing Black Studies. I basically ran the program, but I was not a “student.” I was enrolled, but I was an administrator. I think I passed two courses the year I ran the program. It’s remarkable that I graduated on time with my class.
I think people who had more emotional maturity were able to handle the various hats. But basically, most of the people who were coordinators of that program suffered academically. And several of them suffered emotionally.
And so there was a great political schism that happened within the Black Talent program. After my term, I started to advocate that the program was more than students could handle, and that we needed to surrender it. We needed to give it back to the University while we had some negotiating power to talk about what the program could look like and what the structure could be. The reaction of some folks was, “Excuse me! That’s not acceptable. That’s defeatist.” My viewpoint was not the prevalent viewpoint at that time.
The days of student sovereignty were winding down. In 1976, four years into the presidency of J. Donald Monan, SJ, the University brought the program back under professional administrative control. The program’s name was changed to the Office of Minority Student Affairs, reflecting its extended reach to Latinos and Asians.
Sidney Holloway, M.Ed.’74, MA’91, was a Boston College financial-aid officer from 1971 to 1976. His responsibilities included working with the Black Talent program. He is now an associate director in the University’s Office of Institutional Diversity.
Sidney Holloway: I thought it was time to put the program back into the hands of the University, to let the students be students. And part of my thinking was, the handwriting was on the wall. Fr. Monan had put together a committee to study minority education at Boston College. Administrators talked about the attrition rates as being of some concern.
What I was telling the students was, let’s work out a way to do this, from a position of strength. That didn’t happen. The University just took back the program.
I thought there could have been more involvement, more process, more transparency. And I thought it was unfair to take the same amount of dollars and spread it over a larger group [of minorities].
Monroe “Bud” Moseley was the first and last director (1976–78) of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. He is now a partner in the Boston recruiting firm Isaacson, Miller.
Bud Moseley: The students were not very excited about me coming in, as you might imagine. They didn’t like it at all. So I had to meet with students one-on-one. I talked to a lot of families on the phone out of New York. The kids who were running the program were from New York, and a lot of other Black Talent kids were from New York. Bright kids, no question about it—but that was personal politics.
Some parents came to the campus and I met with them. I met with groups of students in Allston.
One night, students invited me to come down to the Mods for dinner. I came into the room and there must have been 40 students in there, livid. I thought it was going to be a nice evening of conversation. I was young, 27, 28. I didn’t look a whole lot different from them. I looked young for my age and had a big Afro at the time. But I had a jacket and tie. And they were livid.
Some alumni and parents were feeding the flames, I think. They thought there was a hidden agenda, that I was brought in to shut the whole program down. And I was telling them, that wasn’t going to be the case.
What we did was lay the foundation for putting in the kind of support, especially academic support, that was needed to begin to improve the graduation rates. We started a full summer program to help these students academically. We hired English-as-a-second-language tutors, to help the Latino students, because [the University] was up to 200 Latino students, in addition to 400 black students and a hundred Asian students. We put in social supports, too.
Julianne Malveaux: I had mixed feelings. I was in graduate school at the time and I was more immersed in those studies. But I think that it wasn’t a friendly takeover, let’s put it that way—and it could have been. I mean, I don’t think the Black Talent program deserved to die. It was an unnatural death.
It may not have needed to live in [the same] way. Do you want students to have all this responsibility?
But I think there was also an effort [by the University] to gamble less on admission. And I think that while that may produce higher yields in terms of graduation rates, it may produce fewer outliers. In other words, what happens to the student who didn’t do well in high school but would have a brilliant college career? In the current configuration, he or she probably won’t go to Boston College.
The Black Talent program had its last incarnation in 1979. Under the leadership of Donald Brown, who had previously run a minority outreach program for UMass-Amherst, it became the Office of AHANA Student Programs, which to this day offers a broad mix of services, including academic support, career counseling, and spiritual development, to African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native-American students. Fenwick Hall ceased being an officially black dorm around 1980. The experiment that grew from the racial convulsions of the 1960s is remembered by many who were there as a necessary moment for students and for the University, which today has a 24 percent minority undergraduate enrollment.
Robin Cook Nobles ’76 was in charge of monitoring the academic progress of Black Talent students in 1973–74. She now directs the Stone Center Counseling Service at Wellesley College.
Robin Cook Nobles: There was political turmoil at Boston College, because there was political turmoil in the country. I mean, there were some faculty members that I felt were racist, but I didn’t let them bother me, because I grew up in the segregated South, in Virginia, and I knew racism, and this was nothing. There’s always racist people, and they’re not going to carve out my life for me. That was their issue and their problem, and they needed to deal with it.
But I loved BC. I had friends. I had great relationships with faculty, especially certain faculty. I loved the Fathers. They were always kind to me, and gentlemanly. I did well at BC. I graduated summa cum laude. Nobody was discriminating against me.
We were a passionate group [the Black Talent students]. We were young. We were activists. We protested. It was a wonderful time, and it was of that time. Black Talent was a slice of the American experience.
Dan Bunch ’79, MSW’81, came to the Black Talent program from Hayneville, Alabama (population: 1,117), and has been at Boston College ever since. He directs the University’s Learning to Learn program, which for the last 30 years, has, as its mission statement says, provided “first generation, financially needy college students” with academic assistance.
Dan Bunch: I took [time] off after graduating from high school. My sister, May, was at BC, in the Black Talent program, and she had been trying to recruit me for a couple of years.
Black Talent opened doors for us. It was true to Boston College’s mission. The original mission was to provide an avenue for poor Irish kids from Boston who were not accepted in large numbers, or not accepted at all, at the Harvards and the Yales, the more prestigious schools. With Black Talent, you had a poor, first generation of college students who wanted to go to college but didn’t know how to get there; nor did their parents know how to get them there. It provided an avenue for us to come in, get educated, and go off to do the things we wanted to do. Even for the ones who didn’t graduate, they had a chance to come to college. They had that chance.
Epilogue: By most tallies, more than 300 students were admitted to Boston College by the Black Talent program in the nearly five years of student administration—including 73 students during the first full year of undergraduate control in 1972. But much else about Black Talent has been obscured. The official 1990 History of Boston College, by the late Charles F. Donovan, SJ, glosses over student control of the program and leaves the impression that the University rejected the students’ demand for it. The March 1970 takeover of Gasson Hall yielded not a word in the Heights; the editors of the student paper were otherwise engrossed, in their own controversy with the administration over censorship.
Asked about the governing arrangement for the Black Talent program, Indiana University’s Fabio Rojas, author of the 2007 book, From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline, said there were black studies programs devised by students at a number of universities and often administered by them to a degree, though usually not for long. But he could not think of a single place—besides Boston College—where students had such sweeping control over admission and other core administrative responsibilities. Rojas places the Black Talent experiment at Boston College “at the extreme end of the spectrum of what was happening in higher education at that time.”
Roughly 200 graduates of the Black Talent program are expected to be among the thousand or so alumni who will turn out in Chestnut Hill this summer for “Reconnect,” which is being billed as the largest-ever gathering of Boston College AHANA alumni and friends (the acronym stands for African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American). Launched 30 years ago, the University’s Office of AHANA Student Programs grew out of the Black Talent program, which began as a scholarship and recruitment effort in 1968. Black Talent came to be wholly under the control of students for nearly five years. It was reorganized as Minority Student Affairs in 1976, before evolving into the AHANA program.
The July 17–19 reunion “will serve as both a celebration and an opportunity to solidify the connection” between AHANA graduates (who number an estimated 10,000) and the University, according to an announcement by the AHANA office, which provides a breadth of academic and social services to Boston College students. AHANA alumni, their families, and friends will get together for three days of programs, including musical performances, a celebrity golf tournament, a boat cruise, and campus tours.
Also featured will be presentations by Executive Vice President Patrick Keating on the University’s master plan and by John Mahoney, director of undergraduate admission, on managing the University’s applicant pool, as well as alumni panel discussions on developments in law, management, media, medicine, and education. University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Julianne Malveaux ’74, president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, will address attendees at a formal gala.
“Blacks don’t come back to BC [for alumni events] in large numbers. And we attribute some of that to their experiences here,” says Dan Bunch ’79, MSW’81, himself a Black Talent graduate who directs the University’s Learning to Learn program and is cochair of the Reconnect program committee, to-gether with Donald Garnett ’77. “But if you look at the younger blacks, say, as far back as 1990, those blacks are coming back at a higher rate. Now the ones from Black Talent are saying: We want to come back, too. We want to come home. That’s why this is such an important gathering, this Reconnect in July.”
For more information, and to register for Reconnect, go to www.bc.edu/alumni/reconnect.
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