Monday, February 18, 2013

Neo-Black Society vs. the student senate, 1973

In 1967, black students at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) formed the student group, the Neo-Black Society (NBS), in response to growing concerns about the support and acceptance of black students on campus.  At its founding, the NBS was extremely separatist, calling for parallel university events for black students.  The organization was also very vocal in advocating the recruiting of more black faculty at UNCG as well the incorporation of more black history and culture into the curriculum. First meeting in the student lounge, the NBS soon moved to a more permanent room in Elliott Hall.  The organization quickly distinguished itself across the campus and within the Greensboro community through its sponsorship of an annual Black Arts Festival as well as a Gospel Choir and other social activities.

In 1973, the NBS had clearly established itself as a strong, albeit confrontational, presence across the UNCG campus. This resulted in some resentment by some white students who consequently pushed for the removal of student funding for the NBS.  They argued that the society was segregationist by refusing to admit whites which was a direct violation of the university’s anti-discrimination regulations.  It was true that at the time all 145 members of the NBS were black and that there had only been a few white members since its founding in 1967. Acknowledging the students’ complaints, the student senate on the night of March 26-27, voted to withdraw funding for the organization.  Hearing the results of this meeting created an immediate backlash across the university as over 300 students began a sit-in movement to occupy the Foust building.  Recognizing the frustrations of the students, Chancellor Ferguson agree to appoint a faculty review committee to look into the matter.  During this time, the students continued to peacefully maintain a sit-in presence while the committee investigated the matter.

Chaired by psychology Professor Kendon Smith and made up of three white professors and two black professors, the committee agreed on March 30th to uphold the NBS funding and found the student senate in serious breach of procedural errors.  Chancellor Ferguson accepted the findings as did most of the faculty.  Despite the ruling, some students were still upset and appealed to the board of trustees who voted to remand the matter to the student senate for further consideration.  In the fall of 1973, the NBS agreed to add several white members to the organization as well as draft anti-discrimination language into its constitution which appeased the senate and funding was restored.


University experiences peaceful sit-in demonstration while faculty committee considers Senate's actions





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