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History of integration by Nita Thurman
Summer 2004      

story extras

African American enrollment

WFAA coverage of the 50th anniversary of desegregation

other features

History of integration

Opening doors

Transforming history

Making college home

Greek life

A team united

Pride and tradition

Remembering the early days


History of integration: 1, 2, 3

Protests and progress

North Texas students

Students from the '70s gather in the Union Building to discuss issues.

Students continued drawing attention to issues of concern in the next decades. The 1970s saw the Great Paper Heist, when African American students — unhappy with a lack of coverage in the North Texas Daily student newspaper — removed nearly every copy of the paper from campus one day. African American students repeated the act in the '90s.

In the 1980s, the student senate took up the issue of equal housing, and students protested successfully when administrators trying to deal with a reduction in state money sought to cut funding to the university's Intercultural Services Office.

At the national level, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission ruled in 1970 that schools that failed to enforce equal rights could lose federal funds. But affirmative action, which had set quotas to ensure a minimum number of enrollments available to African Americans in higher education, came under attack. In 1978, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities could not use quotas but could consider race when making admission decisions.

Although it came slowly, North Texas also recognized the need for diversity in faculty, staff and administrative positions and began actively recruiting ethnic minorities. Its new Office of Equal Opportunity opened in 1976, with Alton Thibodeaux as its founding director, and throughout the '80s, African Americans became academic department chairs, supervisors, administrators and coaches.

In 1983, the state of Texas appointed its first African American regent, Joe Greene ('69), to North Texas. In 1985, Greene, who had gained recognition on the football field as "Mean" Joe Greene, was the first African American named a Distinguished Alumnus at North Texas.

Changing the climate

During the '90s, the battle against affirmative action continued in the courts. In 1996, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the use of racial preference in student admissions in the case of Hopwood vs. Texas.

Legal experts declared the ruling a serious threat to affirmative action, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case and it affected race-based admissions only in the Fifth Circuit jurisdiction of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

On campus, African American students called on the university to combat racism in light of several incidents and concerns about insensitivity toward ethnic minority students. A dormant NAACP was revived on campus, and the NAACP and Black Student Alliance demanded that the administration do more to change the racial climate.

The Board of Regents and the administration convened an independent committee — the Blue Ribbon Committee — to review strategies for recruiting and retaining minority students, faculty and administrators, and to develop plans for a full-scale intercultural center.

A fraternity pledge notebook containing racial and sexist slurs and comments made in a public forum prompted unity marches against racism. The university revised its search guidelines to ensure that more ethnic minorities would be in the pool of candidates for faculty positions.

An African American also achieved the vice presidential ranks for the first time in 1992 when Renay Ford Scales ('74, '02 Ph.D.) became assistant vice president and director for equal opportunity. She was followed in 1998 by Cassandra Berry as the university's first associate vice president and head of the Division of Equity and Diversity.

Moving forward together

The new millennium has not been without race-related events on campus and in the nation. When a UNT fraternity waving a Confederate flag shouted racial slurs at African American football recruits and their families touring the campus in 2001, students responded by holding a press conference and a "Moving Forward Together" rally. The fraternity was subsequently suspended.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with the issue of racial preference in two cases from the University of Michigan. The court struck down admission policies that used quotas or specific point systems favoring minorities, but upheld the idea that the goal of a diverse student body could justify considering race in admission. The NAACP described the decision as "the most significant civil rights case in the last quarter century."

That same year, barriers at UNT continued to fall as the university named African Americans to its highest echelon of administrative positions. John Price ('81), executive director of the UNT Dallas Campus, was named the first African American vice provost, and Howard Johnson became the first African American provost and full vice president.

Today, African Americans contribute in many ways to the makeup of the university. The yearlong 50 Years of Progress and Opportunity celebration commemorates their courage and contributions.

Next page: Alfred Tennyson Miller and J.C. Matthews
1, 2, 3


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