Michigan State News

May 1, 1969

"BSA leaves Wilson cafeteria; committee suggests 9 changes"

by Jim Sylvester


After nearly 14 hours of negotiation, a special committee appointed by Acting- President Walter Adams made nine recommendations Wednesday in response to the Black Students’ Alliance’s (BSA) charges of racial harassment of black Wilson Hall employees.

BSA initiated a sit-in Monday at the Wilson cafeteria to protest the "dehumanization" of black full-time employees and to expose racism in the University. It was ended after the committee’s findings were released.

The black students refused to leave the cafeteria or allow meals to be served until the University acted on their recommendations. The students expected the immediate termination of Joseph Trantham, food services manager of Wilson, and Elaine Mishler, head manager, and an immediate commitment that all those who were harassed and abused by them be promoted.

They also wanted the two vacant positions to be filled by blacks that will be selected by black students and workers.

After a three-and-a-half hour open forum Tuesday, during which the demands were made, Adams directed a committee of four blacks and four whites to reach a settlement acceptable to all parties.

Milton B. Dickerson, vice president for student affairs, and Irvin E. Vance, asst. professor of mathematics, acted as co-chairman of the committee. Making up the rest of the committee were E.G. Foster, manager of dormitory and food services, Lyle A. Thorburn, manager of residence halls, Robert C. Underwood, personnel administrator for dormitory and food services, Carson Hamilton, associate professor of English, Mike Hudson, Inkster freshman and Maina Kenyatta, Kenya graduate student.

The group began their marathon discussion in the Wilson basement, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and continued until 3 a.m. Wednesday. They reconvened at 10:30 a.m. same day and finally reached a settlement at 3:40 that afternoon.

Shortly thereafter, Adams held a press conference in the Wilson Auditorium. Speaking to over 400 people, mostly newsmen and students, he said, "I find the recommendations perfectly reasonable and justifiable and I intend to act in accordance with them." The substance of the recommendations are as follows:

"That a position be established for a black person in the central personnel office with the general function of recruiting black personnel and of getting them placed in the University structure. If it is necessary to give on-the-job training in some instances, this person should see that it is provided. The selection of this person shall be made with the advice of BSA and the approval of the director of Equal Opportunity programs and the director of the Center of Urban Affairs."

"That immediate steps be taken to upgrade blacks in residence hall employment, with on-the-job training if necessary."

"That there be an immediate search for and subsequent hiring of a black college graduate to be trained for one of the management positions in Wilson Hall, with the advice of the BSA."

"That the University administration release a statement condemning the kinds of practices which led to the situation at Wilson Hall."

"That Miss Mishler be transferred out of Wilson Hall and placed in a permanent non-supervisory position."

"That Mr. Trantham be transferred out of Wilson Hall and placed in a permanent non-supervisory position in food service."

"That the President request some knowledgeable faculty member, such as Dr. Killingsworth professor of labor and industrial relations, to formulate in conjunction with all interested parties some plan for an arbitration system to adjudicate the sort of controversy involved in Wilson Hall."

"That the President request the faculty not to penalize the students involved in the Wilson Hall action."

"That a progress report be forwarded to the entire University, including specifically the BSA and the black faculty, on the above items on June 1 and Oct. 1, 1969."