Navigating Dartmouth from Recruitment to Reality

"The more subtle forms of promotion of the American society which reduces the non-white races to an inferior position are the less noticeable and thus more dangerous types of propagandizing. It is difficult to leave Dartmouth without a lesser value attatched to minority cultures. This reinforces feeling of superiority in whites and undermines a sense of black community." 

- Eileen Cave, Judi Redding, Monica Hargrove, "Dartmouth Redding Report: Institutional Racism and Student Life at Dartmouth College.”

In the late 1960s, Dartmouth College initiated efforts to diversify its student body, notably through programs like the ABC (A Better Chance) program. Established in 1963, the ABC program depended on Dartmouth undergraduates to recruit and mentor underrepresented students. These mentors played a vital role in contacting and traveling to private schools in the Northeast to attract minority students, like Rocky, who was recruited by George Riley '73. 

The college's expectations that the recruited students would simply "fit in" clashed with the reality that the Black students felt like outsiders in a predominantly white, northeastern environment. The preceding student body had cultivated a culture that catered to white interests and to those with money and its accompanying privileges. Insufficient forethought went into addressing the cultural transition these students would experience, encountering an environment that was unfamiliar and unwelcoming to them. This cultural discrepancy forced the Black community into a constant state of "negotiation" and "code-switching."

The College's struggle to support students turned integration into a mutual learning process. Black students found themselves in the roles of educators, advocating for the necessity of establishing inclusive spaces, activities, and resources relevant to their culture on campus. A motivation for this advocacy stemmed from the fact that Black students couldn't resort to their familiar communities at the end of the day, as they were able to back home. Instead, they were forced to navigate a white environment around the clock, a situation that inevitably bred tension and resentment between the students and the institution.

"They had no idea, thought we would just fit in with everybody else. No. No, this is a country club atmosphere and people who have money can survive here and get off campus. We don't have money. We don't have cars. We are stuck. We're not going anywhere for the weekend. We're not going to Vail for spring break. We're not going any place special. We trying to figure out who's going with me home for Thanksgiving because they can't afford to fly back to California.”

"We don't really have a place to organize, to talk about the things that are important to this Black community. How we can even have a concert that features somebody that's relevant to us. How we can have speakers who come up here that are relevant to us. It wasn't so much that it was overt racism, it was just a lack of knowledge of how to integrate this group, this demographic into the community and what would be helpful, advantageous, [...] supportive of this demographic. So we had to teach them, the College, as much as they had to teach us about the world we were in."

- Morris Whitaker

Implicit racism was a significant issue in Rocky's experience with varsity athletics. Out of the roughly 50 Black players who tried out as walk-ons for the football team during Rocky’s freshman year, only about 10 remained at the end of the season. The Black players often underwent position changes, were all made to compete for the same positions, and rarely started. The coaches consistently conveyed to Black players, specifically Rocky, that they could "never do anything right." The 1974 Redding Report has documented the issue, stating, "There have been, though, many black men recruited who played quarterback in high school and who have been asked to switch positions during their freshman year. Additionally, the majority of black players who put in considerable time in a game play defensive positions. If Dartmouth recruits only defensive black players and/or switches offensive black players to different positions and/or if the coach does not choose to play black offensive players, then the trend is discriminatory." This pattern of treatment openly exposed how coaching not only perpetuated racial stereotypes but also diminished the value of Black players through their positional assignments and limited playing opportunities.

The classroom was the site of a handful of discriminatory experiences that differed from student to student. Some were more subtle than others, like Rocky’s experience with his first English professor. He recalls meeting her outside of class to get help on his paper, but she instead told him to “think about transferring because this might not be the place for you.” Other examples, as discussed in Adrienne Lotson's [‘82] oral history interview, are as outwardly racist as a professor telling students that it would be impossible for a Black student to get an A in the class.