CBS calls for resignation of two faculty members, accuses racism -1974


On April 27, 1974 two members of the Concerned Black Students published a letter to the campus at large outlining a "series of grievances" and calling for the resignation of two sociology professors, J. Richard Woodworth and Anne R. Abler. The communique, distributed by CBS members John Wylie and J.C. Woods, cited "derogatory grading, blatant racial slurs, and availed propaganda of the myth of Black intellectual inferiority" as evidence of the professors' racist attitudes and reasons why they should be forced to resign. the CBS letter also brought broader charges of racism against the administration and college as a whole, identifying "biased attitudes" which have caused the "suspension, dismissal and withdrawal" of black students from Grinnell College. The attrition rate of black students had never been compiled, so specific numbers were not available to support or refute this claim, however statistics were available regarding another of the letter's allegations of racism. In response to the communique's complaint of a high turnover rate for African American faculty, the S&B noted that a "total of 17 Blacks have served on Grinnell College's faculty or administration since the 1970-71 academic year. Of these, seven have served for more than one year, [and] three others were at Grinnell on one-year temporary or visiting appointments."

The CBS letter succeeded in initiating plenty of campus discussion, both among students and in more formal settings with the Deans and the President of the College. However, an editorial by J.C. Woods in the same issue of the S&B describes the letter as "ill-conceived, miswritten, rhetorically bankrupt, tactically terrible, strategically worse, politically inexpedient and generally more harmful to CBS than 20 Woodworths and 40 Ablers." Arguing that the communique did little more than entrench the two accused professors deep into the realm of job security, Woods also notes that it effectively "mobilize[d] the faculty against [CBS]." Woods summarizes his career of butting heads with Grinnell administration, concluding bitterly that "Grinnell taught me that radical politics don't pay . . ." He goes on to state that he understands the desperation from which the letter, described as "suicidal" by its authors, originated: "You [black students] begin to realize that at Grinnell you are gaining a knowledge of the impotence and futility that will be shackled to your life until you die. Yet these people when faced by self-serving bureaucracies which left them with no constructive, logical and effective alternatives struck out against their oppressor in the most self-destructive, illogical and ineffective manner. Such a course takes some guts. And lots of insanity. Maybe insanity will work. We've tried everything else."

Sources:

"CBS Seeks Resignations." The Scarlet & Black. March 1, 1974. p.1, 2.

Woods, J.C. "And Now a Word from CBS." The Scarlet & Black. March 1, 1974. p.4.