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April 22, 1974

Three Vassar students, along with representatives from the State University at New Paltz, Barnard and Sarah Lawrence and two state senators, met with Board of Regents member Dr. Kenneth Clark and his assistants to discuss the forced desegregation throughout New York of AfricanAmerican student housing. The Board of Regents claimed that Kendrick House, which housed Vassar’s African-American Cultural Center and 30 of its 169 black students, was in violation of the Regents’ 1972 Position Paper No. 15, “Minority Access to and Participation in Post Secondary Education,” and possibly of Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Regents’ representatives had made this determination following a visit to Kendrick House in January.

One of the Vassar students, Paula Williams ’74, spoke to The Miscellany News about the meeting: “She said that the group asked Clark why he could not see that there was a cultural and social need for unity among Black students, especially since they were in such a minority at colleges. He reportedly answered that this was hiding from the issue and that the only way that blacks would be able to deal effectively with white society was to come into constant confrontation with it. Ms. Williams does not support this view, saying that blacks…should have the choice of living with people of similar interests and backgrounds while pursuing an academic education.” The Vassar trustees, meeting on May 11, voted unanimously to maintain Kendrick House as the site of the cultural center and a student residence and to make “every effort” to persuade the Regents of the wisdom of the Vassar policy.

After a year and a half of negotiation, and facing mounting legal cost and the threats both of loss of state financial aid and of possible rescission of Vassar’s charter, the trustees voted at their meetings in May 1975 to return Kendrick House to its original purpose—faculty housing—to relocate the cultural center to a site on campus and to house all black students in campus residence halls.

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