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Undermining Racial JusticeHow One University Embraced Inclusion and Inequality$
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Matthew Johnson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748585

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748585.001.0001

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Bones and Sinews

Bones and Sinews

(p.9) Chapter 1 Bones and Sinews
Undermining Racial Justice

Matthew Johnson

Cornell University Press

This chapter discusses how black student activists led a campus strike at the University of Michigan (UM) in 1970, challenging entrenched ideas and practices that seemed so natural and embedded in the institution that administrators had never questioned them. The institutional values and practices that justified an admissions system that created racial disparities began in the mid-nineteenth century. Two core values emerged at the first board of regents meetings in Ann Arbor. Campus leaders wanted to create a university on par with any in the United States, and they wanted the university to offer broad access to the people of Michigan. But over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, campus leaders chose to subordinate the ideal of access to the goal of attaining and sustaining UM's elite status. In the 1940s and 1950s, administrators slowly purged official practices that mandated or accommodated segregation in campus buildings and social clubs. They slowly incorporated the prevailing ideas of racial liberalism. However, administrators never anticipated how the implementation of racial liberalism would impact black students. The ways that UM leaders crafted the model multiracial community led to a toxic racial climate at UM.

Keywords:   black student activists, University of Michigan, admissions system, racial disparities, university leaders, racial liberalism, black students, multiracial community, racial climate

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