Aggy social progress

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aggy has had difficulty in keeping up with the rest of society.

1961 - The Blueprint for Progress

A&M commemorated its eighty-fifth anniversary in 1961 by commissioning The Blueprint for Progress. The Blueprint consisted of three reports published in 1962: the Century Council made up of 100 state educational and business leaders, the Committee on Aspirations consisting of twenty-four faculty and staff members, and a report by the Board of Directors. College president Earl Rudder asked these three groups to answer four questions: "(1) What kind of student does Texas A&M seek to produce? (2) What is the mission of the college? (3) To what degree of academic excellence should the faculty and staff aspire? (4) What should be the scope and size of the A&M College by the centennial anniversary in 1976?"

The Century Council urged the college to be selective in its curricular expansion by affirming its land-grant mission of offering basic, less academically rigorous engineering, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and core science programs. The Century Council was split in its opinion on co-education and concluded that this decision rested solely with school administrators. They did, however, praise the mandatory two-year ROTC program through the Corps of Cadets for freshman and sophomores. Whether the school remained all male or military-style, it was unquestionable that A&M needed to increase its admissions standards. Aggies had long scored below the national average on standardized tests such as the SAT.

The Committee on Aspirations largely agreed with the Century Council's conclusions with exception of the Corps of Cadets. This faculty/staff body believed that corps membership was more important to many students than obtaining a degree. In short, they expressed an opinion that exists today that people in the corps were more concerned with playing Army than in their education. They argued that mandatory corps membership, reinstated in the fall of 1958, led to a high attrition rate and detracted from A&M's land-grant and research missions. The attrition argument was unconvincing to corps supporters since enrollment was 8,100 in the fall of 1962 with approximately half of all students in the corps. The Committee on Aspirations were recognized to have made a compelling argument. School administrators accepted the recommendation and ended compulsory corps membership, starting in 1965.

Integration and Desegregation

Confederate President Jefferson Davis - asked to be first aggy president

Texas A&M has has long had a checkered history of racial tolerance, starting with the decision to name Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America, as the school's first president.[1] The affection early A&M leaders felt toward Davis was so strong, that in the earliest of years, when money was short and the campus library held precious few books, one of the first books the school made available for the students was Frank H. Alfriend's Jefferson Davis & His Prison Life.[2]

In A&M's early years, a number of influential school administrators and professors were bonded together by their previous service in the Confederate army, including school president Lawrence Sullivan Ross, and professor (and acting school president 1890-1891) William Lorraine Bringhurst (while a Ph.D. and a full professor at A&M, Bringhurst chose to be referred to as "Major Bringhurst" during his time at the college, a title reflective of his rank wile serving the Confederacy[3] [as an aside, Maj. Bringhurst was the son-in-law of Sam Houston][4]). Other presidents of A&M who served in the Confederate army were John Garland James, November 22, 1879 - April 1, 1883 and Hardaway Hunt Dinwiddie, July 23, 1883 - December 11, 1887[5] As an homage to the college's dedication to the Confederate cause, TAMU cadets wore uniforms of Confederate gray from the school's inception in 1876 until 1917, when the school began to implement its Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program.[6]

Southern sentiments dominated the A&M campus throughout its formative years. On the occasion of Jefferson Davis' death in 1889, an elaborate memorial service was held on the A&M campus where he was praised and eulogized with "unanimous sorrow."

As Professor Bringhurst stated in his eulogy:

Yes, young men of Texas, you may be proud that you are countrymen of Jefferson Davis. He is a sublime figure in the history of the world; and I would a thousand times rather his name and reputation were mine, than live in history as the man whose audacious act precipitated upon American civilization the abomination of African citizenship; or he who, encompassed and supported by a million of soldiers, compelled the surrender of the incomparable Lee. Let us, let us be glad and thank Heaven that the Union lives; let us hope that, surpassing the period of all other earthly communities, magnificently surviving, it will rear its crest when Time is old; and let not us forget, and let not our descendants forget the name, the lofty character, the spotless integrity, the devoted patriotism of Jefferson Davis.[7]

There can be no doubt of the type of men who lead Texas A&M University in its early, and most formative years. Clear examples of the impact of racial intolerance of the school's early leaders include the picture in the school's 1906 yearbook of students wearing KKK robes and masks.

In the mid-20th century, while other schools were implementing plans to desegregate, Texas A&M chose to maintain its "traditional" 19th-century views toward desegregation and to operate under the "separate but equal" doctrine as long as possible. Long after many other schools had desegregated, A&M continued to refuse admissions to African-Americans and instead, directing them to Prairie View A&M College, a traditionally African-American institution founded just two years after Texas A&M.

By 1963, TAMU was trailing efforts of other institutions in desegregating Texas' public universities, which had started in earnest with The University of Texas' 1950 desegregation of its law school (thus becoming the first major university in the South to accept an African-American student) and the 1956 desegregation of the University's undergraduate enrollment (thus becoming the first major university in the south to be fully integrated).

The decision of TAMU administrators to ignore desegregation came to an end in the summer on 1963 when Leroy Sterling became the first African-American to gain admission[8]. Clarence Dixon became the first African-American alumnus in 1967. Jesse Smith, Joe Lee Macheaux, and Samuel Williams became the first African-Americans to join the Corps of Cadets in 1964[9]. William Mahomes, class of 1969, became the first African-American student to remain in the aggy corps for four years.

While Texas A&M begrudgingly undertook efforts to desegregate, these efforts were by no means well accepted by the administrators, students or alumni. As chronicled by Finnie Coleman, assistant English professor and associate director of the honors program at Texas A&M in his presentation “Matthew Gaines, Uncle Dan and the Ku Klux Klan: Early Efforts at Negotiating Race and Racism at Texas A&M University,"[10] two racially motivated secret societies, the True Texans and the Stikas, still today freely operate on the Texas A&M campus.[11]

Sul Ross, bigoted aggy hero
One of the most revered individuals in the history of Texas A&M is Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a former Confederate general who is widely accepted as being responsible for ordering the Civil War-era cold-blooded murder of African-American troops serving in the U.S. Army who had been taken prisoner outside Yazoo City, Mississippi in February, 1964. While Ross has a statue in his honor in a highly prominent place on the Texas A&M campus, efforts to similarly honor Matthew Gaines, an educated former slave who was one of the first black elected officials in Texas; an ardent supporter of public education in Texas who fought for integration in schools nearly one hundred years before the Civil Rights Movement; and a strong supporter of the Morrill Land Grant Act that created The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, have been repeatedly rejected.

The tradition of racial intolerance at Texas A&M continued after the school began to integrate its athletics teams. In 1971, students burned a cross on campus, in front of the athletics dorms, presumably for the viewing of Hugh McElroy, the first black starter on the football team.[11]

As for the school's progress at promoting racial diversity, Meredith Paddon, a Texas A&M student, explained in a 2007 research thesis[11]:

In 2006 a video created by three Texas A&M students surfaced, inciting a media frenzy and campus outrage. The video showed a white student disguised in blackface being whipped and sodomized by his white master (another student) for using the internet without permission. The white master had a Twelfth Man towel hanging from his back pocket, distinctly identifying him as an Aggie.

The significance of the video has been interpreted in a variety of ways. The consensus on campus, that the video exhibited racist and inappropriate values, led to the voluntary departure of the students from the campus. The Battalion printed an extensive apology from one of the students. However, in which he claimed that while he and the other two students acted as foolish freshmen by filming the video three years earlier, they had intended the film to parody what they saw as racism on the campus of Texas A&M.

If the intentions of the students at the time of recording were hateful, as the campus consensus claimed, the film could be construed as another isolated case of racism. However, if the student apologizing in the Battalion did so genuinely, the film may be seen instead as a foolhardy yet misunderstood examination of campus dynamics. Either way, the film lends credence to the suggestion that Texas A&M as a whole is not as impartially welcoming as students would like to believe. The idea that the school should diversify in an attempt at political correctness seems absurd to many students who claim that the one of the things that “makes A&M so great is the fact that we do not conform to every new ideology, the fact that we stand strong and we have survived the course of time.”'

Kream and Kow Klub

Go ahead and think about the initials of this aggy organization for a moment. I'll wait.

Seen in these photos from the aggy 1906 and 1943 yearbooks (humorously named the "Longhorn"), the KKK had a validated presence on the aggy campus through well after WWII.

There are plenty of current-day aggy who are (rightly) appalled by this, but an even larger number (not shockingly on TexAgs[12]) who try to pass this off as a student organization majoring in "Dairy Husbandry".

Excuse me while my eyes roll so far back in my head that they come around again.

This underlying sentiment may still be on and around the aggy campus, as evidenced by the reported incident on 2/9/16 when minority high school students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory (a charter school in southwest Dallas), visiting aggy on a potential campus recruitment tour, were accosted by current aggy students with verbal racial slurs.[13] To give aggy some credit as well, a large group of students (including the campus president) went into "full apology mode".[14]

The ironic thing is that a number of aggy (mostly the robots on TexAgs) sometimes refer to fans of The University of Texas as "Klanhorns". Subtle projection is not so subtle.

Introduction of Women

1963 saw not only the introduction of desegregation onto the A&M campus, it also ushered in the beginning of women being able to freely enroll at the school. Neither the issue of desegregation nor the introduction of women was any less controversial than the other. Unlike the introduction of African-Americans, the introduction of women progressed rapidly on campus. Women now outnumber men on the TAMU campus. However, what hasn't progressed is the inclusion of women into campus activities as well as the equal treatment of women on campus.

The process of gender integration started in 1958 when the first lawsuits were filed to force the college to stand up past its Neanderthal, misogynest roots and begin to enter modernity. Lena Ann Bristol and Barbara Tittle filed suit in the Brazos County district court seeking an order compelling the college to grant them admission. Judge W.T. McDonald ordered the college to admit them, concluding the A&M Directors lacked the constitutional authority to bar females from attending A&M. The judge went on to state the exclusionary policy to be "irrational," pointing out A&M was the only land-grant college in the nation that remained single-sex. A&M officials appealed and the State Court of Civil Appeals overturned Judge McDonald's ruling. Bristol and Tittle appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court denied their request.[15]

A few months after the Bristol decision, Bryan residents Margaret Allred, Sarah Hutto, and Mary Ann Parker filed a class action suit against A&M. John M. Barron, attorney for the women, claimed that A&M had to admit Allred because she could not pursue her chosen degree field (floriculture) elsewhere in Texas. The women again failed to prevail and on appeal to the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, the ruling from the lower court was affirmed. The women had little they could lean on in these pre-Title IX days. The Bristol case resulted in violence on campus. The editor of the Battalion took a stand in favor of coeducation and was promptly removed from his post. Another student who supported the admission of women reportedly received an ammonia bomb through his window.[15]

Aggy girlsgirlsgirls.jpg
Debate raged until April 27, 1963 when the Directors voted to admit all women as graduate students and spouses of employees and students as undergraduates. In the weeks leading up to the watershed decision, prominent Houstonian, (and aggy troglodyte) T.I. Smith, Class of 1898, launched a statewide letter-writing campaign in opposition. State Senator William Moore, a long-time supporter of co-education and Class of 1940, responded to Smith on the front-page of the Battalion. Moore passionately argued that while an all-male A&M was acceptable in the past, A&M could not remain in the past and meet the demands of the space age when men and women required the type of education that the land-grant university could offer. Moore also criticized Smith and others who compared the presence of women to the presence of African Americans at Mississippi and Alabama where federal marshals were required to maintain peace.[15]

The House and Senate responded with vastly different resolutions. Although not adopted, House Concurrent Resolution 80 garnered numerous supporters. Will Smith of Beaumont and Jim Markgraf of Scurry (near Dallas) resorted to traditional aggy-style Neanderthal-level thinking and condemned the Board of Directors and President Rudder for causing "distress, apprehension and resentment among many thousands of students and former students of A&M College" where "great history had been written without the feminine hand of coed students and without classes in home economics, dressmaking, pincushion embroidery or hairdressing." Meanwhile, the Senate passed a resolution commending the A&M Directors for their decision to admit women. Senate Resolution 558, authored by William Moore, who had been fighting to obtain access for the women of his home district of Bryan/College Station for more than a decade, the resolution congratulated the Directors for resisting political pressure.

As women and African American students attended classes in small, but gradually increasing numbers, angry alumnus Robert Rowland appealed to the Texas attorney general. Waggoner Carr issued his opinion in defense of the Directors on October 14, 1965. Carr concluded that women were not protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Directors certainly had the option to restrict their access. The Board also had the "unquestioned" right to admit women. Carr then criticized the Directors for limited female access to spouses and daughters of faculty and students and deemed this practice a "discriminatory and an unreasonable class distinction." All women were eligible for admission around the time Carr released his decision.[15]

While the decision to admit women had been settled, the decision whether to make them welcome on the A&M campus, or to allow them equal participation in all programs and activities on campus, most certainly was not settled.

Resistance to the inclusion of women changed from whether they would be allowed on campus, to whether they would ever be treated as equals and granted equal opportunity, indistinguishable from the opportunities granted men. The resistance to allowing equal opportunity to women on the A&M campus is as strong today as it was in 1963.

In 1978, just four years after the first woman joined the Corps, Melanie Zentgraf began her fight against the customs of an all male Corps of Cadets. As a junior, Melanie wore senior boots to Elephant Walk, a tradition celebrated at A&M signifying the impending “death” (graduation) of seniors as students at the school. Many junior cadets wear senior boots to the event as a prank. However, when Melanie was a student, a female cadet’s uniform still did not include riding boots, regardless of class and rank. Upon arrival at the event, twenty male cadets surrounded Melanie, forcing her to remove her boots. Tired of the harassment that she had been facing, Melanie filed a class action law suit against the University on the grounds of gender discrimination, gaining national exposure and eventually achieving complete integration of women into the Corps of Cadets.[15]

The belief that women “do not belong in the military and that they threaten the established male culture, especially the tradition of all-male activities and the male right of passage” still exists for many of the more traditional cadets on campus today. Women have had to fight for positions within the traditions of the Corps and titles such as that of Yell Leaders still remain inaccessible. Women have run for the position in the past, but the majority of students – or rather the majority of students who vote for Yell Leader – seem to fear that having a woman fill the traditionally male role will somehow pervert the sacred tradition.[15]

Prairie View A&M

aggy's "Separate but Equal" Historically Black College has its own page, but pay special attention to the football incident.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Davis#Later_years
  2. Early history of Texas A. and M. College through letters; Cofer, David Brooks; p.30; https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b34716;view=2up;seq=36
  3. Second five administrators of Texas A. and M. College, 1890-1905.; Cofer, David Brooks.; p.57; https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b34719;view=2up;seq=58
  4. Second five administrators of Texas A. and M. College, 1890-1905.; Cofer, David Brooks.; p.58; https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b34719;view=2up;seq=58
  5. http://www.brazosgenealogy.org/data/ampres.htm
  6. Tang, I. A. (2000). Texas Aggie Bonfire. Austin: Morgan Printing; p.93
  7. Second five administrators of Texas A. and M. College, 1890-1905.; Cofer, David Brooks.; p.54; https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b34719;view=2up;seq=58
  8. Breaking the Color Barrier, First African-American Students at A&M, June 1963, http://archiveexhibits.library.tamu.edu/africanamerican/studentlife/sterling.html
  9. http://archiveexhibits.library.tamu.edu/africanamerican/corps/corps1.html
  10. http://www.theeagle.com/archives/professor-to-speak-on-history-of-blacks-at-a-m/article_6d4909b9-66d1-5e65-ae89-c55f80261de5.html
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Southern Reveille: Southern Culture and Tradition at Texas A&M University, Meredith Patton, http://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/5726/thesisfinal.pdf
  12. A&M History Question - 1920s, http://texags.com/forums/49/topics/2079851
  13. STATEMENT: Regarding incident at Texas A&M University - College Station, State Senator Royce West twitter, 2/11/16, https://twitter.com/SenRoyceWest/status/697928164895358976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
  14. Texas A&M apologizes after minority h.s. students harassed on campus, USA Today, 2/18/16, http://college.usatoday.com/2016/02/18/texas-am-apologizes-after-minority-h-s-students-harassed-on-campus/
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 OIL, POWER, AND UNIVERSITIES: POLITICAL STRUGGLE AND ACADEMIC ADVANCEMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AND TEXAS A&M, 1876-1965; Susan Richardson; A Thesis in Higher Education submitted to The Pennsylvania State University, College of Education; 2007; https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/5766