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Middlebury Recovers from Apparently Racist Incidents

A Weekly Survey of News From Other Campuses


Middlebury College is recovering this month from a series of racist incidents that rocked the campus in September.

The small liberal arts college is trying to forget about a series of racist attacks, which turned out to be perpretrated by the alleged victim.

For two weeks in September, freshman John Grace reported a series of incidents--a broken window, and threatening notes on his door. The college, which has never had a history of racial tension, was instantly awakened. The incidents become the focal point of a heated campus-wide controversy that activated the student body, and prompted action by the administration.

Then on September 30, experts identified the handwriting on the last threatening note as Grace's. Grace admitted to the fraud and withdrew from school.

The administration quickly released a soothing official announcement, but in the aftermath student reaction was heated.

"We felt we had been taken for a ride," Dorothea Gay, former president of the Black Student Union (BSU) said yesterday. "I had put a lot of my time and energy into meeting with the BSU and the administration to discuss what could be done."

But the college has taken steps to calm the student unrest and brought in Rita Dudley, chief of psychology at Boston City Hospital, who met with student groups and faculty to help them deal with the incidents of the past several weeks.

Dudley said yesterday that she was successful in relieving what she called the seeds of racial tension. "The Black students felt embarrassed and guilty, while the whites felt relieved that they weren't responsible," she explained.

Nevertheless, Blacks and whites were united in their condemnation of the apparent racism.

The Student Forum issued a harsh statement condemning racism, and attendance was almost perfect at an all-campus meeting that the College President. Olin Robison, called to air student concerns.

In addition, the BSU demanded that the administration investigate two other isolated incidents that appeared to have racist overtones: a poster that had been scrawled with what appeared to be a racist slur, and a prank involving several freshman that may have had racist overtones.

Gay says students now agree that these incidents were not racially motivated and that the BSU's angry response was the product of a "racially tense climate." She added that the poster actually read "blade not blacks."

Expressing general student sentiment, sophomore Janer Stuver said this week. "It was good to have my faith in the integrity of this college renewed."

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