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Miriam Orzech Oral History Interview, August 13, 1987

Oregon State University
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 ML: A few questions here I would like to ask you in reference to Lonnie B. Harris. Did you have a chance to know Lonnie personally?

MO: Well, I worked with Lonnie from 1969 until he died, and had lots of interactions with him, both in the program and socially. So, I guess you could say that I did know him personally.

ML: How did you first come to meet Lonnie?

MO: I first met him when I went to apply for a position in the then, newly-established Minority and Special Services Program at Oregon State University. I had just finished my Master's. The ink was still wet on the diploma. And the program was just being started. Lonnie had just been hired and was looking for staff.

ML: And so you applied?

MO: I walked into his office and met him.

ML: And that's where it all began?

MO: Yes.

ML: When was the office, according to the Calvin article, which we will talk 00:01:00about in a minute, he mentions the Office of Minorities and Special Service Program, which was the predecessor of Educational Opportunities Program.

MO: That was a one, well not one year, but that was a predecessor of Educational Opportunities Program. That was simply the original name of the program which was established by, or at the direction of the Faculty Senate, Oregon State University. Somebody made a motion that Oregon State University establish such a program to assist Minorities and disadvantaged students. The administration went along with it, and did so establish a program. It was first called the Minority and Special Services Program.

ML: When was this formed?

MO: The first program was actually 1968, from 1968 to 1969. It had a different director. The program was not very successful. I'm sorry to say, I just don't know any of the details.

ML: O.K.

MO: I really wasn't concerned with that. I was concerned with our program and 00:02:00our director. So that's where all the energies went. It only lasted one year. Although, our program, our Office of Minorities and Special Services, which is what we called it, inherited a number of the students who were left over from that program. I think almost all of whom were white students. So that was really one of the problems. It was not a Minority program.

ML: They weren't looking at economics then as a Minority criteria for the White students?

MO: Well, they were. But, the fact that there were no ethnic Minority students in there, led some people to raise their eyebrows.

ML: The impact that this...Oh yes, coming out of this, there was some concern, I believe, with the Black population here on campus. Some protests were developing, including even a visit by Health Education and Welfare. That took place, I believe, March 25 to 26th of 1986. Did that have an impact?

MO: It was 1968. You said 1986.


ML: I'm sorry. Yesterday it happened. My records suggested it happened on March 25 and 26 of 1969 that Health Education and Welfare visited this campus. Did that have any impact?

MO: You see, that was all part of the previous program. Our program, Lonnie's program, began in late Summer, and the first students were there in the Fall of 1969. So this is all a hold over from the previous situation, the previous experience, the previous director, and everything that had gone before. The climate for Black students primarily, because when he talked about Minorities in those days, you're talking about Black students.

ML: O.K.

MO: Was anything but hospitable on this campus. There had been a walkout by Black students over a beard incident, and people twenty years later are still 00:04:00talking about Fred Milton's beard and the walkout on campus. People have long memories when it comes to that.

ML: Was there also something about long hair was a problem at that time? Or was that referring to...

MO: Well that wasn't particularly a Black students problem.

ML: Oh. O.K.

MO: Yes, it was a White student's problem. But anyone who looked different, either in dress, manner or skin color was fairly suspect in this community at that time. Also, the beard incident. Fred Milton was a football player and there was an exceedingly, insensitive incident with the football coach and Fred Milton's beard which is what led to the walk-off which was supported by all kinds of White students and other Minority students and so forth. So there was a very widespread legacy of bad feeling that Lonnie Harris stepped into when he 00:05:00became the director and which he had to overcome.

ML: Then when he stepped in, he became the director of Educational Opportunities Program?

MO: Well, still Minority and Special Services Program.

ML: Still Minority and Special Services. O.K.

MO: So he took over those students and the whole program. And, it was not until a couple of years later that we changed the name.

ML: How was he received by the academic community when Lonnie came on board?

MO: Well, there were really two groups of people. There were, what in those days were called the Liberals, by some, the Bleeding Heart Liberals, who were very anxious to have this kind of program. Who thought the cities were burning still. The embers were still smoldering. And Oregon State University and Oregon in particular, were not anywhere in the forefront of doing anything to remove these programs. It was clear that Oregon State University was not a hospitable place for Minorities. So they were very glad to see a program established, and to have 00:06:00a Black, and to especially have a Black director. A lot of the rest of the population of the faculty either looked down their noses at it, the many people in the larger society did, or just did not pay any attention. Weren't even aware that it was there, because it did start out very small.

ML: And by small, he recruited a couple of students?

MO: No no no. It was not that small.

ML: O.K.

MO: The first year we had forty students most of whom were these White students left from the previous program. There were a few, no more than a dozen Minority students. Then of course, part of Lonnie's first responsibility was to go out and start recruiting. He was the one, who was the only Black person in this program. The other person was Hispanic, my counterpart was Hispanic, and then I was White. But recruiting was not really part of my responsibilities. Anyway, so 00:07:00the Hispanic person was out recruiting Hispanic students and Lonnie was up mainly in the Portland area recruiting Black students.

ML: Going into the impoverished areas predominantly when he recruited?

MO: Yes. Well, there is the ghetto. There is the Albina District and it is, well, there are no walls or anything, but a ghetto is a ghetto and is quite quite recognizable.

ML: Did he go into Job Corp to get any students?

MO: Yes. He had connections with Job Corp because he had a previous experience with Job Corp, a personal experience with Job Corp. He worked for it. For five or six years, he made regular visits to the Job Corp Centers. We tended not to have very much success with Job Corp students. They were really recruited from a different population. And, it was a vocational oriented kind of thing for students who are really dropouts. That is not the kind of person who is going to succeed in higher education. So, our main efforts gradually shifted toward the high schools, the Oregon high schools and the ethnic community organizations: 00:08:00the churches, parent groups, things like that.

ML: So possibly then economics was playing a more major role in the Minorities coming here than maybe a background that might be quote/unquote, questionable from an academic standpoint?

MO: Definitely.

ML: Has there been some success? I imagine there have been a few Job Corp students who were picked up by this program over the years.

MO: Yes, but just a few that succeeded.

ML: That succeeded. Yes. So there is a small percentage that came out of that. They weren't completely closed from considering applicants from...?

MO: Oh, no no. We would take a good applicant from anywhere. We did not care. It is just that the people that tended to drift into Job Corp, or be recruited into Job Corp, did not turn out to be very good possibilities. Our star Job Corp graduate is the real exception. And, that is the young man you are going to interview, Paul Killpatrick, who is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program, and is on a 00:09:00sabbatical from a community college where he has been teaching successfully for many years. He kind of got into Job Corp by mistake.

ML: Really. We had the pleasure of talking yesterday and we were talking about his background, and about Job Corp; and that he was delighted that someone would take a risk on him, which other people would consider to be a risky situation itself.

MO: Well the whole program has always been directed at high-risk students. Students that simply would not have been in higher education were it not for this program. I mean Paul, well I don't want to say never, but the chances are pretty good, I think, that he would not have got the higher education without someone coming down to Job Corp and seeing him, and talking with him, and realizing that he had lots of potential.

ML: And actively recruiting?

MO: Actively recruiting. Making it possible for the admissions process to function smoothly; for financial aid to get set up and available. None of that 00:10:00happens by itself.

ML: Do you feel that some of the people form the minority groups came to this campus, maybe not so much because of Oregon State University, but because of Lonnie Harris himself?

MO: Oh, no question about that. No question about that, particularly in the Black community.

ML: So he was the friend, I guess you would say?

MO: Well, Oregon State University and Corvallis, but we are really talking about Oregon State University now, did not have a good reputation in the Portland Black community. That was very clear. There was no one down here who anyone had any rapport with and that felt comfortable in sending their children down here. They were either, not so much get a fair shake, but that it was not, if not overtly hostile, at least, pretty damn uncomfortable.

ML: For students?

MO: Well, nobody wants to do that. If you are a Black family and if you have the money, you will send them to a historically Black college in the Southeast. When Lonnie showed up down here, and was given an administrative position and had a 00:11:00program, I think parents then felt much more comfortable; willing to take the risk for their children or urge their children to take the risk of coming down here. It made all the difference in the world.

ML: Because here is Corvallis that is purely a White community, very conservative and a lot of people might not have even heard of the 25,000 to 30,000 people who were here at that time. So it would be a frightening experience.

MO: Absolutely. No question.

ML: Then there was some benefit coming out of him being able to recruit?

MO: Without a doubt.

ML: One thing I am curious about, this article that was written by Calvin Henry, let's see, what was the title of that article? No, I don't remember it right now. But it deals primarily with...

MO: "Independent Analysis of Oregon State University's Office of Minorities and Special Services Program"?

ML: Yes. That is the article that he had written. He said here, and I want to make a little quote about this comment on it. He said that "OMSSP has not been 00:12:00effective for the students during 1969 to 1970; however it has served OSU administration. It has built in limitations: it has not had the commitment of the President, Chancellor and State Officials necessary to win acceptance in the State's communities; it has not had the funds necessary to operate and recruit, and it is understaffed." The question I want to ask out of this is, "What was Harris's role in changing the Office of Minorities and Special Services Program from serving the Administration to predominately serving the students?" is the first question.

MO: You have to understand a little bit about the structure of higher education in Oregon in order to lay a background for this. It is a back and forth kind of situation between the Chancellor or the State system of higher education, and the institution, in this case, Oregon State University. The Chancellor gave 00:13:00permission, it must have been early 1968 or 1967, something like that, to any of the State institutions, the State higher education institutions, to establish what could be called a Minority program, if they so wished. By that then, there was permission given. He did not say, "you have to do it." He said, "but if you want to do it, it is O.K. to do it." There was a little bit of money available that could be divided up among schools. Then it became the job of the Faculty Senate, and/or the Administration of the University to make the decision to do it. As I mentioned before, our Faculty Senate did do that. They said to the President, "we want this kind of program. Let's do it. And so the President then took the step of establishing a Minority and Special Services Program Committee to support the staff. Everything has that kind of committee in a University, 00:14:00which acts as both advocate and oversight. So it allowed that program to get established.

Now, the format of the program, the emphasis the program, the placement of the program administratively, all that has nothing to do with the Chancellor. It has to do with the individual institutions. And as it so happened, our program, as it developed with Lonnie as director, and with the various Presidents we had, turned out to be very very different, as different as night and day, from the similar program that developed at the University of Oregon, for instances. In a sense, what Calvin is saying is true. First of all it was the first year of the program. It certainly had its limitations. It was underfunded. It was definitely understaffed. I was one of them. I had to fight my way up from a .3, a one-third 00:15:00appointment, at the beginning of that year, to the end of the year, I think I was three-quarters, and by the next year I was full-time , or something like that. In other words, we had to create the program as we went along. That's not something that is unique to a Minority program. I want to make that very clear. That's the way everything happens in higher education. You have to create a demand. You have to carve yourself out your niche and your job.

So this program, the Office of Minorities and Special Services, had to make itself needed. It did that by constantly bringing in more students; by serving them in different kinds of ways as the needs made themselves apparent. Then badgering the administration. "Look, we need A, B, C, D. For that we need X-number of dollars." Then they would give us X-number of dollars and we would 00:16:00do A, B, C, D. Pretty soon you have to do F, G, H, I, J. And, you need more dollars. It just keeps going that way. If you compare the program in 1969 to what it is in almost 1989, they are different programs. They are just absolutely different animals. We had three staff members. Well, that is not quite true. We had about five bodies, individual people, with about 2 1/2 FTE. So that was Lonnie, who was full-time. Myself, I was .3. The other person, the Hispanic, I think was .5. Then there was a couple of instructors. One in reading and writing and the other in math. They just had real part-time kinds of appointments. It was less than a full person. Now, I don't know how many FTE are in instruction alone in Educational Opportunities Program. But, it must be six or seven. And 00:17:00there are another six or seven in administration and recruiting and counseling. There is about twenty-five to thirty bodies over there with about 25 FTE; including graduate students who are hired and secretaries. There is one federal programs, well, two federal programs at work through the Educational Opportunities Program. There is just a whole myriad of stuff going on there.

But that was all created little by little, step by step over the years as the needs made themselves apparent. As the staff became more expert, and students began to have confidence, and the Minority communities began to have confidence in the program; we had to overcome all that prejudice on the part of the Minority communities vis a vis the University. Just having Lonnie here was not enough. We had to prove ourselves and let them develop trust. We had to start graduating students because that is the name of the game. Just to bring them 00:18:00here and have them accumulate debt to go to school, and then go back home. It is not doing anything. We had to start getting graduates out, which we did obviously.

ML: That is the success and that is how you can measure the program?

MO: Yes. Starting from forty students in 1969, which is where we were -- I remember that vividly. I can still see in my mind's eye how we had our first meeting -- To where the program is now, which is approximately 450; that is a tremendous difference.

ML: You were mentioning a little bit earlier that part of this program was based on need, as far as getting other support, and saying "now we have got the money, let's build up the program. There is something about a three per cent program that I read about on this campus. How does that effect the situation?

MO: Before I answer that, let me expand a bit more on what we were saying about the Administration. Cal Henry makes the point here that there wasn't 00:19:00Administrative support by the President or whoever. That is really not true. Because if there wasn't Presidential support, we could have presented our needs to the President until we were blue in the face, and nothing would have happen. But, things did happen. Now it was difficult. You had to really make a good case. Sometimes you had to repeat the case two or three times. But ultimately, we got money and we kept getting money; either to support students or to hire another teacher or to hire another counselor. We always had to push the need to the utmost until we were ready to break, and then they would give us more on a recurring bases. So, you know when you are in the situation you really feel mistreated, and certainly I felt that way. I can understand very clearly where Cal comes from. But, that is just not how the world works. You first have to 00:20:00prove yourself. You first have to show that the need is out there. That they are beating on the doors, and we have got to do something. Then the money comes. And if there is not support the money won't come. But it did come.

ML: So regardless of whether there was this three per cent program or not, that did not...

MO: The three per cent program is something an entirely different thing. It is part of the administrative policy changes that had to take place in order to make the program work.

ML: My interpretation was that there was a little relationship between getting-having the need fulfilled with this three per cent program?

MO: That is true. The three per cent program--well, let me back up. Historically Blacks in our country, and since most of them are concentrated in Portland in Oregon it was true about Portland at least in the Sixties and Seventies did not get the same kind of education. They did not have access to the same kinds of education that white middle class students had. There is no question about that. 00:21:00They were shunted, and in a large measure, still are shunted into vocational type programs. They are advised to take the easier courses. They are not encouraged to take up challenges that counselors often throw at the feet of White students. "Why don't you be president of that club?" "It's good experience for you." Black students don't hear that kind of thing very often. Neither do Hispanics nor the Native Americans by and large, unless they are really outstanding. Most of us are not outstanding; just ordinary people. So, the students that Lonnie would recruit, for instance, turned out not to have very much preparation for higher education. I mean, really and truly, they didn't. They were not academically competitive.

That situation was just intolerable. First of all, we could not even get them into the University because they did not have the requirements. Even assuming 00:22:00that we could get them in, when we go them here, how were they going to survive in the classes? We did not want to have what is commonly called the revolving door where we simply open the door, let them in, and watch them flunk out, and go out the other way. Everybody on the staff and all the liberal professors, who were our supporters, were very opposed to that. We had to devise very concrete ways of getting the students in and selecting the students we were going to take a risk on. Then supporting them academically while they were here to the point where they were independent enough to succeed in upper division classes and graduate. The first thing that was done was to establish the three per cent program. The three per cent program simply says that each institution that had such a program could admit a number up to three per cent of the previous year's 00:23:00freshman class of students who did not meet the admissions requirements; so Special Admissions.

ML: This refers just to the three minority groups we are talking about or is this anybody?

MO: Anybody. But the focus of course, because Educational Opportunities Program--Let's call it EOP because a couple of years later the name changed to a better name, and I know you have a question about that; and it is easier for me to say--EOP was charged with responsibility of finding those students, and then facilitating their admissions through this special process. There was a faculty committee that we had to work through. We were not simply free agents to do that kind of thing. We worked through the regular Admissions Committee of the University. But that opened the door to any student who did not meet the admission requirements. Now, in point of fact, most of them who came in through that mechanism were Black, Hispanic, or Native Americans. Later on they became 00:24:00Southeast Asian refugees to a large extent when they began to show up. We devised an application form especially for Educational Opportunities Program, and since all of those students did not meet the requirements, we asked them to provide recommendations. Before all this happened, there were big discussions whether there should be recommendation forms; from whom should they be solicited; should we ask the student to write their own personal letter of application saying why they wanted to be a student, all this kind of thing--you know, back and forth. It was all highly political and emotional, and very much concerned with the psychological effect on the individual student as well as the home community, the parents, and the rest.

Anyway, to make a long story short, each student was asked to submit three 00:25:00recommendations. Each form had two parts. They would be given to counselors or teachers, or employers who knew something about higher education, or a minister. Anybody who was qualified to make a judgment about a higher education experience for that student. The first part said, "ask the person with a check-off list to indicate why the student had not done well in the high school; why the grades weren't-up to form. And they included such things as excessive interest in sports, immaturity, a bad home situation, having to work many hours at a job to earn money to help support a family, after school, which cut into study time; things of this nature. The other side asked a person to indicate "why they thought that student was now a good bet to succeed in higher education. Such 00:26:00things as, the student has finally matured, is a late-bloomer, recognizes the need for higher education, the home environment in now better. Whatever it happened to be. We would read those; we would read the transcripts. We would very often interview the student personally, or rely on the recruiter's, largely Lonnie's personal conversations with them, his recollection of what the student was like, and why they wanted to come. Then we would choose the ones that we thought were worth taking a chance on, and we would present those files to the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee would then either reject or accept the applicant. The acceptance rate very often depended on the make-up of the committee. And, like any faculty committee, it rotated. Some years we really had very good luck. Other years we didn't.

Over the years relations got better and better as we became more expert in 00:27:00choosing students. And, as the whole society began to cope with these problems and the schools kind of tightened up a little bit, we had better success with that committee. Now we admit anywhere between a hundred and a one-hundred and thirty new students to Educational Opportunities Program each year.

ML: Graduate and Ungraduate?

MO: No. No Graduates at all. It has always been entirely an Undergraduate program. They can come in as new freshman or they can come in as transfers; either way.

ML: But that is the only way they can get in?

MO: Well students can come into Educational Opportunities Programs as regular students. The three percent mechanism was only for those students that didn't meet the admission requirements. There was always a large number of minority students who did meet the admissions requirements, but may not have been encouraged by their high school counselor to apply for financial aid, or to apply for admission, or anything. Perfectly good students and unfortunately, 00:28:00that is still true.

ML: So hopefully then, those that find out about Educational Opportunities Program themselves, that are good enough, get a little bit more personal support to help them through this academic situation. The thing I am encouraged about is, in your conversation about accepting people, you have been using the term "we" quite a bit. Does "we," does that involve Lonnie Harris specifically?

MO: Oh sure, as Director of the program. Very quickly we developed an admissions committee in Educational Opportunities Program, which at first was simply the three staff members. Then as the staff increased, we would involve some of the teachers. Then as the number got fairly large and the staff got fairly large, we developed, we began to subdivide the responsibilities and all that kind of thing. We had a three person committee and we would circulate the admissions file on each student to that committee in turn, and each person would have to 00:29:00indicate whether they accepted or rejected the student, or whether they wanted more information; or wanted a conference, or whatever. If everybody just checked it off, "accept", then we would transmit the file to the University Admissions Committee, and it would just go that way. If one person had a question or whatever, then we would meet. We would negotiate it among ourselves, and besides, sometimes we would call the student in or the recruiter requested to call the student and solicit more information about a certain point. All very personal and individual.

ML: Everybody sat in?

MO: Yes. We worked pretty much as a team. Always have.

ML: At this time of restructuring programs here, was Lonnie Harris involved in policy restructuring at the Administrative level?

MO: Yes. Yes, very much so. There were many hours of meetings with the Dean of Faculty, who at that time was the person administrative responsible, 00:30:00administratively responsible for the program. The Special Services Committee, which was established to oversee Educational Opportunities Program, and they threw in the Upward Bound at that time, and that committee still functions, and three staff members at the time. What we did was examine all the admissions rules and the policies and procedures and try to determine what were the things that either discouraged or even in some cases, insult a minority person if they were trying to get through this administrative hurdle to get into the University. So there was very conscious examination of all these different policies to make it possible for these higher risk students to come in; to be admitted to come in and get started.

ML: And still try to maintain a certain degree of objectivity?


MO: Yes. There was no point in admitting students who we all knew weren't going to succeed.

ML: Because it would just take the slot form somebody else that could conceivably use that point?

MO: Yes.

ML: I would like to plug on with a little different aspect of this whole thing. Where was the first Black Cultural Center established on campus?

MO: The first Cultural Center was not just the Black one, it was for all three minority groups. My recollection is that it was in the basement, a basement room of Milam, the Home Economics Building, Milam Hall. It was a fairly large room that had been a lab, I believe. We got that through the help of the Danford Fellows as a place for minority students to gather. We thought in those days 00:32:00that it would be really great if everybody would share it and it would be a place where the regular white students of the University could come and also share in the minority cultures.

It never worked out very successfully. First of all it was kind of off the beaten track--where a lot of the students were coming and going. It had to have a key. You could not just leave it open. Yet there was no way to keep it open because we had no money to pay anybody to monitor it as it were. It turned out to be rather difficult to use. Discussions with student services personnel, with the Vice President of Student Services, and people like that, it simply reaffirmed the need for such a place for students to let their hair down; to put their feet up, and just talk with each other like white kids do in the 00:33:00fraternities or sororities or whatever. We just kept agitating, and ultimately it was agreed that there ought to be something like that. My recollection is that the first place was the place where they are now, Young House. I can't think of any other place. Later on a house was given on the other side of campus to the Hispanics. Still later the quonset huts, or the quonset hut that is now available as The Long House for the Indian students. But I think the first place was this Young House. It was simply called Black Cultural Center.

ML: And Lonnie had some impact on getting this established?

MO: Well yes, all three.

ML: Through his efforts?

MO: Yes.

ML: Were there any real difficulties in trying to get the first Black Cultural Center, ie. the Young House, established?

MO: Sure. Money.

ML: Money, as in most situations.


MO: And space, because the University has had a practice of buying up all those properties along Monroe, and kind of evening out the borders of the University. There were many, many other houses that were where the infirmary is now, where the parking lot is. All those areas for the parking lot, the infirmary used to have a Women's Co-op House. As those houses became available the University immediately, through the Foundation, snapped them up because they had long range plans. And the Young House was one of them. When it became available, the needs had been so often presented to the Student Services people that we need a place like that, that it was a convenient stop-gap; and I think that was how it was viewed at first. The University would allow the Black students to use this house 00:35:00until the University was ready to use that building for something else, probably a parking lot.

Once the students were in, then it became politically, virtually impossible to turn them out, and to turn that perfectly good building into a parking lot. The outcry would have been horrendous. And that is exactly what has happened. But the University was reluctant to put the money into those houses, those buildings because they were old and in bad repair. The University wanted nothing more than to tear them down for the ground. Of course the students and staff of Educational Opportunities Program did not want that to happen. They wanted those buildings spared. They happened to be useable and everything else. That's what has happened.

ML: I was talking to Institutional Planning and they were telling me that when the Oregon State University student population reaches a certain percentage, a 00:36:00certain number, when that number is reached, that area was slated to become a parking lot. But the people in Institutional Planning said that's around the year two thousand and something, and they are not quite sure that it is even going to reach that by the year 2010. By then with pressure being what it is, it will probably remain the Black Cultural Center.

MO: Or they will choose a different building. Another building will be available by that time.

ML: What real benefits - we talked a little bit about it - but if we could spend a little more time on the effects or benefits that came out of having the Black Cultural Center?

MO: It gave students a chance to have a place that was their own. And that is exceedingly important. I think that's the area where the majority of the White population really doesn't understand what the Minority experience is like. The whole society is set up to support the white students in ways that people aren't 00:37:00even conscious of. Take the obvious thing, the sorority and fraternity system. These are the white students' home away from home where he or she has a chance to meet future mates. They are very outspoken, overt about this kind of thing. Well, there is no similar place for Minority students, so having a house, one for the Black students, one for the Indians, and one for Hispanics, gives then a similar place where they can do their thing; the way the white students always do their own thing. This was really brought home to me early on in the years of Educational Opportunities Program, when there were--we used to have lots of what we called in those days "rap sessions"-- where we encouraged the students, the EOP students to let down their hair about what was bothering them.

We had all kinds of interesting things. One of which had to do with the 00:38:00situation in the Commons, which is the same building it is now, the eating area, cafeteria. Black students particularly, because that was the main visible group, were accused of being standoffish, clannish, snobbish, and not willing to talk with white students. Why? Because they always sat at their own table or two, however many there were. They didn't disperse themselves among the other students. Well, you stop and think about it for even 10 seconds, you realize that all the white students are also sitting in their own closed little groups. They are not dispersing themselves among the other groups. They sit with their friends. Well who are the friends of the Black students? Other Black students. Who are the friends of the White students? Other white students, who also happen to be their fraternity brothers, or other majors in their field, or whatever. 00:39:00The criticism was just so obviously insensitive and illogical. It was that kind of argument that persuaded the Administration that the Minority students needed their own kind of houses. It made sense to them that it was a poor argument.

ML: A chance to establish some identity and maintain it with the group. In fact, Paul shared with me, "if it wasn't for Lonnie B. Harris, he would have probably not come to Oregon State University. He would have gone to a larger city with a larger Black population. He would be married and have children right now and be a little bit happier than he is."

MO: I think that is probably true.

ML: I said, "coming from a Jewish background and finding a small Jewish population, I can appreciate to a certain degree some of the feelings you are feeling of this isolationism that occurs." So the benefit from the Black Cultural Center.

MO: The other thing that I haven't really mentioned or touched upon here, but being a minority, a visible minority in a predominately white, middle class, 00:40:00Protestant environment, is exhausting. You are always on view. And having Black Cultural Center, where you could go, walk in the door, shut it and be with your friends, and not feel that other people are looking at you; really relax; let yourself go, put your feet up and your hair down. That is exceedingly important from a physical health and mental health standpoint. I don't think white people realize that--how physically draining it is to be the only Black in the class; the only Jew in the class; or whatever it happens to be.

ML: It is almost like you are on parade, in a sense?

MO: Yes. And you are always feeling responsible for everything in your group do, because that's the way the majority group does it. So the Black Cultural Center was really important.

ML: When was the Black Cultural Center named the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center?


MO: That just happened very recently, I think two years ago. It took a while. There was a faculty committee you know... that' s in charge of names, of building names. This a University building and it's a University program, so it had to go through that committee. I was not involved in that effort. I think Larry Griggs was much more involved than I was. Basically, they had to present a case to this committed for naming this building after this person. I think it is pretty obvious from what we have been saying why it was felt that it was the proper thing to do. The wheels ground very slowly. I think ultimately it has to go to the Chancellor's office to be approved and come back down the pipeline and all that kind of thing. So it took at least two years.

ML: That long?

MO: Yes.

ML: Pretty much the rationale was to help maintain a closer Black unity and identity by naming it after him?


MO: Lonnie was the first real director of the Program. He was Black. I think it's clear that he was a very great influence on the students on getting them here and keeping them here. He was a good counselor with lots of students, not just Black students, but all students in the Program. He was well liked. He was a very nice person and he worked his heart out for this Program. There is no question about it and for the minority students in the Program. I can't think of anybody else. The name of the building should have some connection to what the building is for and its history. Lonnie is basic to that whole thing.

ML: His memory is still alive in that building?

MO: Absolutely.

ML: Paul was telling me that he thinks the Black Cultural Center is the only State-owned building in Oregon named after a Black person?


MO: I don't know that that's true, but I would sure think it would be true. There has never been a black person so honored that I know of. I guess Paul's right, almost certain he's right.

ML: One question more I would like to ask you. You gave the eulogy at Harris's funeral.

MO: One of them. I gave the eulogy from our Program.

ML: There was more than one then?

MO: Oh yes.

ML: From that tribute and the reaction of the people there, what do you think will remain foremost in people's minds about Lonnie B. Harris?

MO: I think they will remember the influence that he was on the University in bringing black students to the University; and to making the Program a success, because the Program grew substantially under his direction, both in staff and students. It became solidly established at the University. When the Program was 00:44:00established, there was a fond hope in everybody's minds, or in lots of liberal people's minds, that after while the Program would not be needed anymore. It would work itself out of existence or business. That was the hope for a lot of the Great Society's programs. Of course, nothing could be more ridiculous, further from the truth. That is what happened here. As the program became more successful, the needs became more apparent, and wider, and diverse. Without the program--if that program had failed under Lonnie at the beginning, in the first year or two, I bet we wouldn't have a program like this today--the lasting impact is very great.

ML: It did succeed and the program is still here.

MO: And it is the most successful program in the State. There is no question 00:45:00about it. Maybe even on the West Coast.

ML: That is the monument to the man then, the survival of the program.

MO: There are now over 400 graduates of the program, not all of whom are Black of course, but a substantial number, way over 100, are Black; in a whole variety of academic majors. Nobody majored in EOP. They majored in Pharmacy, Forestry, Education or whatever. There are a good number of Black engineers of both sexes. Some pharmacists, foresters, all kinds.

ML: Anybody that wanted to or fit within the three percent program had access to EOP.

MO: Or who didn't fit within the three percent. That is important to emphasize. There were two groups of students. The three percent were those who couldn't get into the University academically without some special bending of the rules. The 00:46:00rest of the students were academically admissible. They not only came from Oregon but from out of state as well. That was another one of the policy decisions that had to be made. Was this program going to be opened to out of staters? Is the whole University open to out of staters? Of course. Why shouldn't EOP be open to out of staters. Every single thing had to be debated.

ML: From whatever the small situation to large structure acquisition, there is always that chain of command that exists in higher education.

MO: And the policy decisions that have to be made. By now they are pretty much made. The program functions very independently and well, and has an excellent staff, many of whom were there when Lonnie was there.

ML: You were the director of that program for a period of time?

MO: Yes. After Lonnie stepped down from being the director because of poor health. There was a year when we ran the program by committee. I do not 00:47:00recommend that you ever get into that situation. Then they ran a search, an organized, affirmative action search, for a director. I was selected.

ML: Before we conclude this, is there anything else you would like to share with me today in reference to this situation?

MO: I think we have covered everything else. About Lonnie himself, I think it is important to get on the record that Lonnie was one of the nicest people I have ever ment or worked with in my life. I never heard him say a nasty or mean thing about anybody. He bent over backwards to think well and speak well of everybody, even people who didn't deserve to be spoken well of. In fact, almost to a fault. Some students tended to take advantage of his innate goodness, and his trusting 00:48:00nature. People like that are always prone to getting taken advantage of. Certainly that is outweighed by the immense good that he did in bringing black students to the University; by insisting that they could do well; and by going to bat for them, constantly.

ML: Thank you very much for the time you have spent and for sharing this with me. I appreciate it.