A group of black freshmen is charging an Expository Writing instructor with creating a classroom atmosphere offensive to blacks and plans to submit a letter tc the student dean's office today asking the University to investigate the charges.
The letter, which as of yesterday remained in rough draft form, asks the University to look into the "racial atmosphere" of writing classes taught last spring and this fall by Susan L. Craig, preceptor in Expository Writing.
As one example of what the students call Craig's "practice" of "discouraging black students" in her section of Expos 17, "Theory and Practice of Writing," the letter says that Craig used an essay that refers to a "nigger maid" as an example of model student writing.
Craig also assigned an essay entitled "Who Killed King Kong," by S.J. Kennedy, and emphasized in comments on students' papers the author's thesis that blacks see King Kong as "a black superman figure," Eugene J. Green '80, who wrote the protest letter, said yesterday.
"She consistently acted as if blacks could only write well about what she seemed to see as 'the black experience,'" Green said.
"Holy mackerel; I'm completely puzzled," Craig said yesterday when she heard of the charges for the first time. "I was completely unaware of their feelings," she said.
Craig declined to respond to any of the specific charges of "discouragement" that the students cited in their letter.
The atmosphere described in the protest message "must have become apparent to more than just a few students," Green said, noting that of the nine black students originally assigned to Craig's two writing sections this fall, six withdrew before the end of the semester.
All three of the black students who finished the term in one of Craig's two classes said Wednesday that they plan to sign the protest letter.
Attitude Was Important Factor
Annette P. Carnegie '80, a student assigned to Craig's class who moved after attending the section for a weeek, said Tuesday that Craig's attitude toward black students was "the most important factor" in her decision to transfer out.
Carnegie said she had heard even before the class began that Craig had a reputation for treating blacks with condescension. "Just from what I saw in the first class, I got the feeling that what I had heard was right," she said.
A white student in one of Craig's sections, Margaret A. Traub '80, yesterday expressed surprise at the letter's allegations, saying she noticed "nothing that smacked of racial tension" in her class.
However, another white student in the class who asked not to be identified said yesterday "I can easily see" how blacks would have taken offense from Craig's attitude.
"Actually, she was condescending to everyone; but I did notice something in the first few classes that seemed particularly insensitive to blacks," the student said.
About the charge that Craig acted as if blacks could only write about "the black experience," the student pointed out that Craig regularly encouraged people to write about issues familiar to them.
"She was probably trying to be helpful, and didn't see how blacks might see it as degrading," the student said.
Speculating on the possible outcome of an investigation, Green said Tuesday that the University might "discipline or reprimand Mrs. Craig, if necessary."
Patricia G. Butler '80, one of the other two black students who remained in Craig's two sections this fall, said Tuesday she doubts the University will take disciplinary action.
"But at least Mrs. Craig will see that blacks know what's going on in her class, and that we're concerned about what might happen with other blacks who take her course in the future," Butler said.
Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, declined to comment Tuesday on the protest until he reads the charges and talks with Craig.
Epps stressed that the issue would prove delicate because it involves the principle of academic freedom.