Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Perspectives on Compliance

"HEW's Fire Drawn by UR"

Richmond Times-Dispatch Article

In the fall of 1970, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article about how the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) found that the University “still projects an image of an exclusive all-white ‘Southern’ institution.” Dr. Eloise Severinson, the HEW regional civil rights director, had written a letter to George M. Modlin, the President of the University, with suggestions on how to remedy the problem. Modlin declined to comment on the HEW letter, but said that what the HEW letter demanded would be a “grave disservice” to education in Virginia, especially the University of Richmond. This article reiterates the idea that the school had no intention of actually integrating their student body, the president actively commenting in a public newspaper that he thought it would be a detriment to the education at the university.

 

Letter from George M. Modlin to Eloise Severinson

"Letter from George Modlin to Eloise Severinson"

Modlin's Response

In response to the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, President George M. Modlin wrote to Dr. Eloise Severinson, the regional civil rights director from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) accusing her office of leaking the letter. He goes on to say it is unfortunate that the letter was released, as he hasn’t been able to meet with his Board of Trustees to discuss Severinson’s suggestions for integration and compliance with the Civil Rights Act. He then writes that “such publicity makes more difficult your recommendations, especially those requiring the goodwill of black students, black faculty members, and predominantly black institutions”. Again, Modlin is more concerned with the preserving the school’s pristine student body while still looking from the outset that he is complying. Additionally, he is using the leaking of the letter as an excuse to not comply, explaining that he feels as though he won’t get the results that Severinson wanted now that the letter has leaked.

 

Chart "Racial Composition of Student Bodies: University of Richmond"

"Racial Composition of Student Bodies 1969-1970, 1970-1971"

Report "Minority Student Enrollment: Full-Time and Part-Time - by Divisions*- 1972-73 Session University of Richmond"

"Minority Student Enrollment 1972-1973"

Number of Minority Students

As part of the University’s compliance, it was ordered by HEW to provide a chart of its current (1969-1970) and estimated (1970-1971) racial composition of various groups of student bodies on campus. It lists the racial composition of the following schools: Richmond College, Westhampton College, University College (Day and Evening Divisions), Graduate School, School of Business Administration, The T.C. Williams School of Law, and the Summer School. The minority groups it lists are: “American Indian, ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental,’ and “Spanish Surnamed American.” In every school, the actual and estimated number of each minority is under ten, with some even being zero for both actual and estimated. The “Negro” category is the highest, with the highest actual number being four students in Westhampton College and the highest estimated number being eight in the Summer School, which was for part time students. It also lists the actual and estimated amounts of other, or white, students at each of the schools. While the highest actual number of white students is 1379 in Richmond College, the highest estimated number is 1192, also in Richmond College.

Looking to the Future

In the next recruiting cycle, the University recorded a chart of the upcoming student body minorities for the years 1972-1973. In the chart, one can see that the grand totals add up to be be 120, although through further investigation, over half of the total minority students are part-time night students. It seems as though the chart is set up to focus on the total number, when in reality over half of the students were part time night students that did not interact with the daily student traffic inhibiting the University's campus. 

Even today, through looking at the outreach that the University distributes to their prospective students, it seems as though they are projecting an image that does not necessarily reflect the current student body. In an article boasting that the incoming class of 2021 is the most diverse class yet, the University uses a photo that depicts four students, although the two minority students are not students of the class of 2021, but are actually part of the class of 2019. It would seem as though the University is continuing to have a strong disconnect between the projection of their student body and the actual make-up of the student body. 

Perspectives on Compliance