Saturday, 19 of April of 2014

The Administration Reacts

Tufts University President Burton C. Hallowell and his fellow university administrators experienced pressure from all quarters during the course of the Lewis Hall construction agitation.  The Afro-American Society of Tufts University took the lead in applying this pressure in November 1969, communicating demands for equal employment opportunity at the construction site directly to President Hallowell’s office and liaising with other groups in the Boston area to present a united front to the Tufts administration.  Other members of the Tufts community, both individually and in groups, expressed their solidarity with the demands of the Afro-American Society to the administration.  Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students representing a wide range of schools and departments from Arts &Sciences to the School of Medicine petitioned President Hallowell in writing and in person to meet the demands for increased minority employment on the Lewis Hall construction site and all future construction work.  The widespread campus unrest and discontent with the unfair hiring practices of the Volpe Construction Company (the principal contractor on the construction site) and the construction industry in the Boston area in general ultimately led Massachusetts Attorney General Robert Quinn to summon Hallowell and other university presidents in the state to a meeting on December 5, ’69 to work toward a resolution to the problem.

President Hallowell’s administration took some tentative steps to meet the demands of the Afro-American Society and their allies.  Tufts University filed suit against the Volpe Construction Company in November ’69 for its failure to comply with federal hiring laws.  Volpe responded with a countersuit.  President Hallowell himself played a direct role in evaluating the number of minority workers employed on the construction site, and on February 5, 1970, the university announced the formation of the Equal Employment Advancement Committee to increase minority employment at the university and among contractors hired by the university.  These efforts notwithstanding, the construction of Lewis Hall remained woefully understaffed by minority workers even several months later.  As for the lawsuit against Volpe, Tufts University ultimately dropped it in 1974.


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