This letter was written by William Haber, then dean of the University of Michigan's largest academic unit, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, to the University's top academic official, Allan F. Smith, vice president of academic affairs.
In October 1966, Walter R. Greene, acting regional director of the Defense Department's Contract Compliance Office in Detroit, had led a compliance review of sixteen University departments, and in March 1967, provided then-University President Harlan Hatcher with a list of sixteen recommendations "for improvement of equal employment opportunities" and "centralized affirmative action." They included creating an Office of Civil Rights. At the time of the review, women were not yet covered by the presidential executive order barring employment discrimination by federal contractors.
However, by March 1968, when this letter was written, a revised executive order had been issued, and the prohibition on sex discrimination would apply to federal contractors, including the University of Michigan, before the end of the year. But for the time being, University officials appear to be focused solely on minority hiring practices.
Vice President Smith had apparently surveyed several deans on the progress that had been made in recruiting "Negro" graduate students and professors. Dean Haber in turn had surveyed his college's department chairmen, and concluded, "there are no startling achievements." Haber found that there were only "three Negroes of professorial titles" in his college and only eight teaching fellows.
The letter is notable in that it anticipates that only a long-term commitment to affirmative action will improve the situation in both hiring and admissions. Still, Haber acknowledges that many are troubled by the prospect that "we should seek to find the best Negro candidate, even though he might be inferior to a better white candidate."
In this letter, there is no indication of concern about the numbers of women in the professorial ranks or whether women students faced discrimination in graduate school admissions-—two issues at the heart of the complaint that women would file against the University just two years later.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
COLLEGE OF LITERATURE,
SCIENCE, AND THE ARTS
WILLIAM HABER, Dean
WILLIAM HAYS, Associate Dean
March 22, 1968
You wrote to several of us on February 27 requesting some sort of "progress report" on the recommendations of the Greene Committee.[A] I polled all the Chairmen, and now have a reply from everyone of them.
Attached is a summary of the departmental responses prepared by Mrs. Hitchcock. As you will note, there are no startling achievements. Three general responses are evident in the individual letters from departments, which are on file in my office. These are: (1) The application forms for admission to the University do not give sufficient information to guide the departments in their search for minority group candidates; (2) The departmental budgets do not include funds to allow formal, planned, and extensive action; and (3) Sincere efforts have been made by most of the departments, but, in as many cases they have had no or very few responses from those in need.
This subject was vigorously discussed at the recent Chairmen's Conference on March 19. It seems clear to me that only affirmative action, definitely focussed, toward recruitment of Negro graduate students or professors will produce some results. As you can expect, the Chairmen are clearly divided over one central question: We have traditionally inquired about whether the person being considered is the best person available. This applies both to academic appointments and graduate student admissions. We are now asked whether we should change this policy and say that in department "X" we should seek to find the best Negro candidate, even though he might be inferior to a better white candidate.
You will admit that this is a hard question, and the categorical directive or advice--that we should ask the new, rather than the traditional, question--is hard to give. In my view, the best contribution which this University can make during the next five years is to secure a "massive infusion" of Negro graduate students. Once they are admitted we should provide maximum assistance, financial as well as academic. Our object would be to have them qualify for the Michigan Ph.D. in many departments. Only as we and other large universities embark upon such a plan will we be creating the necessary teaching and research talent for academic appointments five or ten years from now. If we do not embark upon such a plan, we shall be as frustrated ten years from now as we are today about this problem as far as professorial appointments are concerned. Someone should be given this task and directed to prepare a proposal for either government or foundation support.
We still have the problem of what we should do in the interval; that is, in the short-run. My own inclination would be to attract eight or ten Negro professors to the University even if it might require some nominal compromise of traditional criteria. This is sheer heresy. Without it, let's admit that we can get nowhere. A poll of our Chairmen, taken on March 19, indicates that there are only three Negroes of professorial titles in the College, and only eight teaching fellows are Negro.
The above may be of help to you in preparing such statement as you may need for the Regents. In view of my own personal interest in this topic, I am taking the liberty of sending a copy of this to President Fleming.[B]
Vice President Allan F. Smith
1524 Administration Building