Hillsdale College president Dr. Larry Arnn is out in today’s Wall Street Journal with an impassioned and well-argued defense of his school’s longstanding policy of not considering race when evaluating students for admission to the school.
“The pressure to count by race used to come from forces in favor of slavery and discrimination,” Dr. Arnn writes. “Today, it’s justified in the name of ‘diversity.’ No matter its source, Hillsdale will continue to resist this pernicious ideology and judge our applicants on their individual merits.”
Dr. Arnn’s piece comes just one week after the United States Supreme Court heard nearly five hours of arguments concerning affirmative-action policies at both the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. During last Monday’s hearing, a majority of the justices seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of allowing race to be considered in admissions.
Hillsdale College’s record of colorblind policies dates to its founding in 1844 and its charter that pledged to educate “all persons . . . irrespective of nationality, color, or sex.” It was the first college in Michigan to welcome black students.
In his essay, Dr. Arnn made a passing reference to his school’s decision in 1955 to decline an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl when the game’s committee members said the team’s four black players wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the January 2nd football game in Orlando, Fla.
Andy Kincannon, one of the team’s black players, remembers the team gathering to consider the ultimatum. “If they’re not going to allow everyone to go,” the wide receiver recalls the players saying, “we’re not going to go.”
The drama actually began months earlier when Hillsdale’s football coach Frank “Muddy” Waters met with organizers of the bowl game. At the time, the Tangerine Bowl featured the best small college teams in the nation. Today, the popular contest is known as the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Hillsdale College squad was on a tear and would eventually finish the 1955 season undefeated with nine wins. In fact, between 1954 and 1957, the “Hillsdale Dales” would win 34 straight games.
Coach Waters knew that bowl officials were uncomfortable with the team’s black players, largely because of local ordinances in Orlando that prohibited white and black people from eating or lodging in the same facilities. But the coach urged the committee to break new ground. At Hillsdale, Waters had worked hard to forge a “culture of brotherhood and sportsmanship” and saw no reason why what was working so well in Michigan couldn’t or wouldn’t work well elsewhere. He told the committee the team wouldn’t play the game if the entire team wasn’t allowed to compete.
Ultimately, the invitation was extended – but the committee then backtracked on their commitment. Coach Waters brought the news to the team – and the players voted unanimously to decline. There would be no New Year’s football for Hillsdale in 1956.
Nate Clark, one of the black players and the team’s star running back, told reporters, “I felt bad for the team because it deprived them of the opportunity to play in the bowl, but I was proud of the guys who made the decision because we couldn’t go as a team.”
Standing up to injustice often comes at a price. Whether it’s missing out on a bowl game or being mocked for speaking up for holding culturally unpopular positions, it takes guts to swim against the tide. Earlier this summer, Dr. Arnn took heat for suggesting too many teachers have been trained by woke and misdirected colleges. He didn’t back down.
“The education bureaucracy has controlled America’s schools for too long,” he wrote in response to the criticism. “Consider the current attack to deprive parents of charter school options — depriving them of the educational opportunities they desire and need for their children.”
Hopefully, no college will ever again be told to leave players off their roster for bowl games because of their race – but what about someone’s belief about the sanctity of life, marriage, religion and other deeply held convictions? Given the heavy hand of some Leftists, the threat should neither be dismissed nor ignored.