Letter to the Editor Re: Why I am a Student of Color

By Jeremiah Reedy

For the sake of historical accuracy, I am writing to correct several misleading statements in Clara Younge’s essay entitled “Why I am a Student of Color” (3/23/12). I came to Mac in the fall of 1968, the same year Arthur Flemming became the President. The first thing I recall Flemming proposing was that Mac should make a “commitment to minority education.” The community was 100% behind the idea. The program, called Expanded Educational Opportunities (E.E.O.), began in the fall of 1969 (not in the late ‘70s) when the first 75 students were admitted. It was not Macalester that “cut funding” “after the second year”; it was DeWitt Wallace and his wife who stopped making annual donations to Macalester, most likely at the suggestion of Paul H. Davis who advised them on educational matters (See The Mac Weekly, 12/11/70 and 2/5/71.). No students were ever stranded. The E.E.O. program lasted well into the administration of John Davis, who came in the fall of 1975. Under the supervision of Davis the program was merged with the College’s regular financial aid program. In 1968 I was told that Macalester had an endowment of ca. $25,000,000 which was large for that time. In the spring of 1971 the Vice President for Financial Affairs reported to the Trustees that the College could not meet its payroll. The College was technically bankrupt. The Chair of the Board personally guaranteed the College’s checks up to $500,000 that spring. In December of 1970 at an emergency meeting of the Trustees at a motel near the airport, a majority voted to fire Flemming who admitted that “budgets bored him.” In January 1971 it was announced that the Trustees had agreed to accept Flemming’s “request for early retirement.” Flemming left in April of ’71, having been appointed Chair of the White House Conference on Aging by Nixon. On July 7, 1971 we received a memo from then V.P. Ken Goodrich saying the following year there would be 91 fewer positions on the supporting staff and 23 fewer positions on the faculty in ’71-72. The budget of the E.E.O. program was not affected by these cuts. During the summer of 1974, however, when it was discovered that 125 fewer students than anticipated would be enrolling in the fall, Jim Robinson, who had succeeded Flemming, was obliged to reduce the budget of the E.E.O. program, all other budgets having been “cut to the bone.” When E.E.O. students returned and discovered that the budget for their program had been cut, they occupied 77 Macalester St. from September 13 to 24 (twelve days, not three). When the occupation ended as a result of negotiations, it was discovered that no damage had been done to the building or its contents (See the excellent four-part series by Dan Gearino, class of ‘98 in The Mac Weekly starting 3/12/98.). During the occupation President Robinson left town for a few days. When he returned he announced that he had accepted a position as president of the University of West Florida. He departed shortly thereafter. Charles McClarnan, a member of Robinson’s staff, served as acting President for the remainder of the ’74-75 school year. This was certainly one of the lowest points in Macalester’s history, but the College never abandoned its commitment to the education of minority students. Under John Davis, the “man who saved Macalester,” the college’s lot began to improve and is still improving. Jeremiah Reedy, Professor Emeritus of Classics, is writing a memoir tentatively entitled Seven Lean Years, Macalester from 1968 to 1975.