Women, minorities changed face of A&M
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2001
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
A headline from a July 2, 1927 article of The Bryan-College Station Eagle titled "8 states and 2 nations are represented in the Student Body at A&M College this Summer" is evidence of how far Texas A&M University has come in diversifying itself in the last 125 years.
When the University opened its doors in 1876, officially, only white males were allowed to attend. It took 87 years for Texas A&M to integrate both by gender and color, which happened in 1963.
John Adams Jr., Class of 1973 and author of three books on Texas A&M's history, said there was not nearly as much resistance to the integration of African-Americans as there was to women.
"The biggest [problems] were bringing women to A&M," Adams said. "There was much more excitement over that. The issue of blacks was much ado about nothing."
Adams said that even the Texas A&M Mother's Clubs were against women attending A&M. He said everyone kept wanting to know "why do they need to come here when there are other schools that they can go to?"
Suanne Pledger in Heidi Ann Knippa's thesis "Salvation of a University: Admissions of Women to Texas A&M," recalled that the first year females were present on campus that they were met with hostility from the student population and certain portions of the faculty.
"For the first time, I knew what people [felt] when they [were] considered as having the wrong color or nationality," Pledger said.
Knippa said women at A&M encountered an unwelcome environment in the 1960s. She said that, in the beginning, the University did not provide campus housing for women or an adequate amount of women's restrooms.
Women were accepted into A&M on a limited basis in 1963, and full admission of women began in 1971. The Corps of Cadets allowed women to join in 1974.
The University began accepting African-American students in 1963. Three African-American students enrolled in A&M summer school programs as "special students" in the summer of 1963. In 1964, five African-American freshman became the first to join the Corps of Cadets.
In 1967, Charles Dixon Jr. became the first African-American to graduate from Texas A&M. Fred McClure became the first African-American to become student body president in 1976, one hundred years after the University opened.
Although male international students were attending Texas A&M before either women or African-Americans could attend, their enrollment steadily has increased since Texas A&M began. According to university archives, 43 international students attended A&M in 1954, 546 in 1965, 968 in 1974 and 1,988 in 1996.
Adams said when he attended A&M, nobody paid much attention to the diversification of the University.
"We never thought of it as diversity," Adams said. "Things moved on. Life was fine."
Texas A&M University President Dr. Ray M. Bowen said the University is inadequate when it comes to minority enrollment.
Dr. Frank Ashley, Director of Texas A&M Admissions, said the current minority enrollment is not up to A&M standards.
"I think that a lot of people still have perceptions that everyone here is in the Corps of Cadets and that there are hardly any minorities here at all," Ashley said. "One thing we are trying to do is change that perception."
Ashley said he tells potential minority students and families to come to Texas A&M and see if it is the place for them.
"Being a minority myself, I will tell kids that A&M is not for everyone but to come and see for yourself if it is the place for you," Ashley said." If we can get the kids on campus, we will capture them, and they'll come to A&M."
Both Bowen and Ashley cited the Hopwood v. University of Texas decision of 1996, that struck down affirmative action at the university level as one of the reasons for the still low minority numbers.
"I think that Hopwood created a big obstacle for us at Texas A&M," Ashley said. "Hopwood limited a lot of the financial resources that were available for minority students."
Ashley said that although A&M's minority enrollment took a "nose dive" after the Hopwood decision, the minority enrollment numbers are slowly going back up.
"We are in a recovery period now," Ashley said. "We were doing good in the early 1990s; my goal in admissions is to surpass what we did."
Ashley added that although the top ten percent rule is in place to help increase minority enrollment, it is not dealing with the financial problems that they are running into. Ashley said the problem does not lie in students being admitted to Texas A&M but in getting them to attend.
"The top ten percent rule gets kids accepted, but because the financial aspect is missing, students are choosing to attend other universities out of the state," Ashley said. "My dream as director of admissions is that the student population here at Texas A&M would reflect that of the state of Texas population," Ashley said.