Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

NCORE Sparked Discussion, Debate on Race-Related Issues in Higher Education

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

NCORE Sparked Discussion, Debate on Race-Related Issues in Higher Education

Article excerpt

In the early part of the 20th century, violence at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan led to race riots in some of the major cities in Oklahoma. The University of Oklahoma (OU) remained closed to Black students until a 1950 Supreme Court case, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents, forced the school to admit G. W. McLaurin, a Black man, to its graduate school. Eleven years later, the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies was founded on OU's campus in response to social unrest in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to further the work of integration and civil rights in the region.

That centers first initiative was a "large annual two-week workshop for public school personnel attempting to comply with court school integration decisions." That conference has evolved from a small regional assembly for those struggling with issues of civil rights and race in Oklahoma to the large National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) that attracts thousands of people around the country each year.

The Southwest Centers director, Dr. Kathleen Wong(Lau), says much of the work she is doing now is very similar to the work the centers founders were doing in 1961.

"It's kind of weird," she said. "It really had as its roots, I feel like, some of the stuff that I'm doing today, ... [like] training with Oklahoma City police." Recently, Wong(Lau) facilitated a discussion on police brutality and anti-Black sentiments with Norman police and various student leaders on campus.

"The Southwest Center has not done that kind of work in the past dozen to 15 years," she said. "Their pretty exclusive activity was putting on the NCORE conference, and to be fair, it was a period of growth for the NCORE conference."

Last month, more than 2,400 NCORE participants descended on Washington, D.C., for the 28th national conference, including more than 1,044 who participated in the pre-conference.

"I think NCORE has grown because ... people are often the only or the first or the only remaining person in their unit who does this kind of work," said Wong(Lau). "So they labor in kind of these highly tokenized situations and in silos, and so when they come here, they're at a place with hundreds, even thousands of other people who are doing similar work, and so it's, people report, that they feel so invigorated, they have time to think, they have time to challenge themselves--and they're not able to do this with a critical mass of other people on their campuses. …

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