Yale Fights Passage of State Bills Against Educational Discrimination
Harvard Opposed Similar Bill In Principle, Followed Spirit Of Laws Prior to Passage
Yale seems to be winning today a fight Harvard lost in 1949. Laws against educational discrimination probably will not pass the Connecticut legislation this year, although a hearing was held last week.
Two years ago Massachusetts passed a Fair Educational Practices Act to force schools to admit without regard to race, color, religion, creed, or national origin. Harvard, M.I.T., Williams, and Andover led the unsuccessful opposition.
Today in Hartford the anti-discrimination bills face defeat, not because of university opposition but because of religious pressure. In 1945 and 1949 stronger bills went down to defeat in Connecticut, including one saying that a school would lose its tax exemption if charges of discrimination were found valid.
In the hearings last week the Yale administration--speaking also for Connecticut College for Women, Wesleyan, Trinity and the Catholic colleges--said that the bills "assume evils which do not exist" and that "legislation is not appropriate to attain the desired end."
Eli admission blanks do not ask "discriminatory questions" under the terms of the legislation both in Connecticut or Massachusetts. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Jewish Conference did appear in support of the bills, charging that private schools show "definite racial discrimination" in their admissions policies.
On the blanks of candidates for admission today, the College asks the students to "omit mention of anything which would indicate your race, creed, color, or national origin." The admissions office may not keep in its files anything which would indicate this information when the applications are being acted upon. Letters of recommendation are returned if they give this data.
The bills in Connecticut would effect all educational institutions from pre-nursery on to graduate schools. They would be administered by an already-existing Fair Employment Practices Commission. The power to receive student complaints and to investigate schools would be added to the commission's present powers.
Job discrimination' was also the first type of prejudice which Massachusetts went after legally. When the education bill came up in 1949, the Commonwealth already had on its books, for three years an F.E.P.C. bill.
Harvard's opposition to the educational legislation included the point that it "would put an intolerable burden on universities' admission offices," but Harvard's representative stressed his agreement with the principles of the bill.
The fear was expressed by some that minorities would flood with applications universities in states where there was a ban on discrimination.
Despite Harvard's opposition to the bill before its passage, Franklin P. Hawkes, director of Fair Educational Practices, said yesterday that the University has been "more than cooperative in helping to administer the act."
"Laws against discrimination have not eliminated prejudice as such," says the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, "in fact, no one every guaranteed that, without education, they would." But the report adds that these laws "have helped to equalize opportunities for many people."
"People who say that education alone will solve America's problems of racial and religious discrimination are a little behind the times," the commission states. By March 1 of this year, the group had reviewed the application blanks of 433 schools and colleges. Of these, 60 percent contained "discriminatory questions."
Of the ones reviewed, only 28 percent still have one or more discriminatory questions left on their blanks. Hawkes considers this a low number, since he is ordered by the law to proceed "by informal methods of persuasion, conciliation or mediation to induce the elimination of such unfair educational" practices found on application blanks, or in institutional policies.
These methods are not speedy, and it usually takes about three months to review one school's policies, and to put into effect the necessary changes.
Hawkes feels that the cooperation of colleges in opening their records has been excellent and has aided in achieving the goals of the law.
Even though the composition of the student bodies may not have changed noticeably, the enforcement of the law is "building an affirmative climate for youth," and is getting rid of discriminatory thinking in our own minds, he said. It has relieved the "tension created by fears of discrimination."
Laws against discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation and public housing, and because of age-against workers between the ages of 45 and 64--also are in effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts F.E.P.C. of 1946 was patterned directly after the New York State Ives-Quinn Law, the first such law in the country. It makes discrimination in employment an illegal practice. As amended in 1950, this act makes Massachusetts the first state in the country to try to solve the problems of discrimination against the older worker.
Management groups, real estate, interests, and associations of employers, opposed the passage of the original bill. They were afraid that workers of different races, colors, creeds, or national origins, could not work together harmoniously.
First Attempt Falls
An attempt had been made to pass an F.E.P.C. bill in 1945, but it had been defeated. However, the Governor's Committee on Racial and Religious Understanding appointed by Leverett Saltonstall '14 in 1948--led the fight and another bill was introduced and passed the next year.
A three-member commission enforces the law, and is authorized to receive and investigate complaints, and to initiate investigations against employers whom they suspect of discriminatory practices.
By November 1 of last year the Commission had received or initiated 751 complaints or investigations of employment discrimination. In their annual report to the legislature, the commission states that of "these matters 438 have been closed after the discriminatory practice complained of or another...uncovered during investigation has been eliminated as a result of the conciliation procedure."
As a last resort the commission may always go to court and get a "cease and desist" order to back up its decision.