Text of an address delivered at the Fall Convocation of the
nineteen hundred and sixty-eight.sixty-nine school year by Benja-
min L. Perry, Jr., newly appointed sixth president of Florida
Agricultural and Mechanical University established in eighteen
hundred and eighty-seven.
FAMU At The Crossroads
Benjamin L. Perry, Jr., President
TODAY marks the first convocation for the 81st year
of existence of FAMU. We note with pride but with
concern the largest enrollment in our history with
3956 Students. You begin this year with a freshman
president. Monday, September 16, found me like the
freshman students attempting to become reconciled to
new responsibilities. To assume leadership of an on-
going educational enterprise such as this, has left me
little time for reflection and preparation for speaking
While I was deliberating the approach to make this
chat with you, the question of "Whom Shall I Please"
remained an urgent and irritating consideration. Should
my first general presentation be classic, and hence,
appeal to the erudite and academically sagacious?
(Maybe one that could be published later.) Should the
presentation treat academic freedom and expound the
virtures and cautions concerning faculty power? Should
I really turn the students "on" by considering the stu-
dent bill of rights, the current educational evolution,
and the merits or demerits of "student power?" Per-
haps I could please the Tallahassee and State "estab-
lishment" by appealing for peace on the hill, and by
creating false illusions about the future conduct of
various "action" groups on campus.
My decision was to tell you how I feel. Having been
a student at FAMU, an instructor, an administrator,
and now your President, I have developed these first
convocation remarks around the theme, "FAMU AT
Circumstances which flaunt historical facts and ex-
isting conditions, as well as future prospect, impel
us, as FAMUANS, to marshall an array of defenses
in a united front to meet any challenge to the position
and the perpetuation of this institution, as an autono-
mous and independent member of the State University
System of Florida.
FAMU has reached the crossroads as a chartered,
integral agency and a functioning unit in the higher
1. One road leads to a merger, as has been and still
is being proposed by a prominent legislator. The
road leads to the loss of identity of the institution,
for we well know that the "power structure"
means mergiilg,-not a merger. There is a differ-
ence. Merger means absorption and subsequent
loss of educational opportunity for many blacks
who will not be at other institutions in Florida.
It means that the average student, the late bloom-
er, and the high school graduate with latent po-
tential, will be further victimized by a system that
recognizes only the academically elite.
2. The second road is one that leads to an isolated
black university and self-imposed separatism. This
road carries, on the surface, the cry of "Black
Power"; but underneath, it has a weak foundation
of moral and financial support. The students,
faculty, and administration have previously un-
equivocably affirmed their position on'segregation
per se. Segregation in every form and in every
human relationship is not defensible or acceptable.
Nothing less than quality desegregated education
will satisfy. This does not mean phasing out black
administered colleges. "Quality desegregated edu-
cation" is a two-way operation, encompassing a
balanced relationship among all peoples.
3. The third road leads to an independent university
in the State University System of Florida, with
this institution enjoying maximum involvement in
projecting its future and not systematic envelop-
ment. This third road clings to the true land-grant
spirit: GIVE EVERY YOUTH A CHANCE.
We Must Decide
XFAMUAN, we must decide on the road we are to
Dr. George W. Gore, Jr., who in his 18 /2 year history
as one of the great Presidents of this university, left a
plea, a challenge, when he stated in his letter of resig-
nation to the Board of Regents ". It is my fondest
dream and sincerest hope that the institution will be
continued for many years yet to come as a separate and
autonomous state university and receive adequate sup-
port to enable it to render needed service to the State
of Florida as a part of its system of higher educa-
This is the road that appears to be the most socially
and historically feasible. It is to the end of maintaining
the autonomy and the independence that I am dedi-
cated. We can only attain this goal if we continue to
show the world that FAMU is a success symbol, molded
in the past by black educators and students with some
support from the majority, guided in the future by a
cosmopolitan constituent with black people forming the
nucleus of an efficient, effective, and a managerially
respected educational institution.
The black college is the most critical point in the
higher education of America's youth today. In spite of
the limitations of size and resources, the impact of
these colleges on the American scene for one hundred
years has been completely disproportionate to their
apparent strength. Except for them, most black col-
lege students even today would be denied the oppor-
tunity for higher education. Six times as many are
attending college as there were a generation ago, but
the remarkable fact is that the total increase in num-
bers has been greater in predominantly Negro colleges
than in all other institutions combined.
While all concerned with the health of American
society are working for the integration of education
at all levels, the knowledgeable experts in the field
point out that these institutions must continue to be
the major 'centers for higher educational opportunity
for black youth. Educational integration does not hap-
pen automatically at the college level by flinging open
gates formerly closed. Looming too large are such ob-
stacles as the insufficient preparation of black students
for higher education not designed for and not easily
adapted to their particular needs, the social penetration
of minority groups in relatively small numbers on
most formerly all-white campuses, and the growing
elitism in so many American colleges which eliminates
all Negroes except (as Dr. Stephen Wright points out)
"the top five per cent and the 190 pound halfbacks."
The black college in the South came about to preserve
the then lily white institutions. By happenstance, it
developed, along with the private colleges, as the only
institutions whose program were designed to meet the
full range of the undergraduate higher educational
needs of the Negro. Therefore, these colleges have a
tremendous investment in tradition, pride, social and
educational accomplishment. Here is a true and con-
structive embodiment of "black power." Here reside
the religious and moral values which undergird the
black community. Now the traditionally black college
continues to fill an educational breach of vast di-
mensions and remains a most critical segment of
American higher education.
1 cannot in this discourse, and during the course of
my administration, ignore the criticism of black col-
leges as expounded by Nathan Hare. Sociologist Hare,
who has left the black college and is now employed at
San Francisco State College, reiterates one statement
made by Reisman and Jencks, ". instead of trying to
promote a distinctive set of habits and values in their
students, they were, by almost any standard, purveyors
of super-American, ultra burgeois prejudices and as-
pirations. Far from fighting to preserve a separate
sub-culture, as other ethnic colleges did, the Negro
colleges were militantly opposed to almost everything
which made Negroes different from whites on the
grounds that it was lower class."
Hare, in delivering a blistering attack on black uni-
versities in his article, "The Legacy of Paternalism"
in the July 20 issue of The Saturday Review, makes
statements worthy of note. ".... Negro professors as
a group prevail as mute robots who value their pro-
fessions only for pecuniary and prestigious awards;
they possess little true interest in knowledge and books
beyond the assimilation of matter necessary for the
interpretation, padding and perfunctionary transmis-
sion of their graduate school professor's lecture notes."
Hare also states, ". Students similarly are denied
any place in helping to determine their destinies .
Since administrators extend only puppet power to
official student governments most students disdain to
take an active part in routine campus politics .
Students seeking self-determination accordingly feel
impelled to take matters in their own hands and force
the administration to serve them."
Guiding Propositions for Future Development of FAMU
Ever mindful of the blistering attacks by Reisman
and Jencks, Nathan Hare and the provocative state-
ments on campus by a number of FAMU stalwarts, I
venture to set up propositions that are intended to
guide my administration but not without university
consensus, cooperation, and active support.
1. The administration of the university must be
dedicated to the total involvement of the faculty
and students in developing an educational process
that is academically respectful, and socially and
economically productive. Our culture has thrown
off much of its historic anti-intellectualism and
has come to embrace an educational explosion
having dimensions never dreamed of. This demand
dedication to learning by students and dedication
by teachers to the educability of you, as students.
2. We must recognize the role to be played by each
employee, from the man picking up paper on the
campus grounds to the President, in improving
our institution and upgrading the final product-
3. We must create an image of success. We are
world known in terms of the superb performance of
our football team and our band, nationally known
by our Upward Bound Program, and the 13-Col-
lege Curriculum Program. But this is not enough.
We must justify our continued existence in terms
of total university success.
oVrWe must create an image of help for the under-
privileged by reaching put and assisting black
people in the State of Florida to interpret their
woes to the power structure and to increase their
productive skills. Faculty and students must learn
to shift the venue of their classrooms by engaging
in experiments, special compensatory programs
for the purpose of lifting the seemingly unwanted,
the deprived, the victimized and neglected to
reach up and grasp our hands toward greater
unity of purpose-maximizing the welfare of all.
The institution cannot afford to enlarge the num-
ber of middle class snobs who enjoy economic op-
portunity at the expense of service to the victi-
mized in the present American system.
4. We must request maximum involvement of stu-
dents in elevating the academic and social climate
of FAMU. You sang on Saturday night, "I'm so
glad I'm from FAMU." Yet there are so many
ways in which you defame the institution. May I
take a minute to name a few: Dress, loitering,
profanity, noise in dormitories, disrespect for
those in authoritative positions. The university
does not and cannot attempt to legislate these
qualities. They belong within the purview of your
responsibility. Develop them.
5. We must develop and publicize clearly stated
policies, procedures and delineation of responsi-
bilities in order that the administration, teachers,
and students know the periphery of their author-
In order to facilitate the usefulness of these propo-
sitions, we must converge cooperatively against:
1. Merging or phasing out FAMU.
2. Infringing on the potentials of black leadership,
not only at FAMU, but in the State of Florida.
3. Disrupting the educational process at this uni-
versity. As students, you have the right to object
and to stage, when necessary, peaceful demonstra-
tions within the confines of newly formulated
policies. However, let me make this clear: Acts
that disrupt educational processes or infringe on
the rights of others or that jeopardize life and prop.
erty cannot and will not be condoned. We must
fight to keep FAMU open for routine educational
processes. This may be a crucial decision at the
crossroads. The slogan should be "Stay In School."
4. Evaluating subjectively employees, as well as stu-
dents, in terms of their performance. It is indis-
pensable that we devise a system of objective
evaluation that is fair and equitable to all with
ample opportunity for development.
5. Being discourteous to our colleagues, to students,
and to our various publics. Regardless of their
status, employees, students, whites, blacks, teach-
ers, administrators, visitors, etc., must be treated
with respect and equal dignity.
6. Embracing mediocrity of performance-there
must be evident a more serious interest in scholar-
ship and in competition for academic achievement.
Courses offered must embody real intellectual
challenge and be in line with present-day needs.
Class discussions should be typically vigorous and
intense. Professors should push students' capa-
cities to the limit, but at the same time, recognize
individual differences in rates of absorption of
Programs stressing inter-university cooperation
will be encouraged as a technique for providing
broader and richer experiences, along with an
assurance that we flow into the main stream of
7. Blocking lines of comunication-know the pro-
cess; get the facts.
A recent news article indicated that a great
deal of 'attention has been paid to the neurotic
who indulges in fantasy, who cannot keep his
facts straight, and indeed does not respect the
dividing line between fact and fantasy. Let me
suggest, however, that the opposite case is just
as neurotic and more frequently seen. That is,
the case of the person who is so obsessed with
irrelevant facts that he cannot make his point,
if any. This person seems to generate more fol-
lowers since they too seldom take time to collect
and weigh the facts.
We Will Fight And Win, Whatever The Battle Be
As your sixth President, I am soliciting your coopera-
tion and support. We will fight and win-
1. In the classroom-better teaching, better stu-
dents. More emphasis on academic counselling-
we have too many students on probation at the
end of each quarter.
2. On the campus- an improved academic and social
climate-less loitering, minimum use of profanity,
and respect of the worth and dignity of each
member of this university.
3. Off the campus in outreach programs-lifting up
our victimized brothers by extending (a) free
expertise and classes, (b) leadership training, (c)
increased economic productivity of the under-
employed, the structually unemployed, and the
higher education dropout.
4. On the gridiron-our sons will never yield. They
will maintain a tradition of winning.
5. In the music area-excellence and perfection is
your motto. Go to the Superbowl and continue to
display the excellence of performance for which
you are internationally known.
6. Our Heritage (Have Retirees stand). These
giants are a part of our heritage. They have con-
tribute to the building of our FAMU. They have
invested in me. (Cite James Brown-Say it loud,
I'm Black and I am Proud.) We must continue to
develop our self-respect, self-discipline, and self-
denial in order that the world may know that we
are proud of FAMU.
Yes, we will fight to win whatever the battle be. We
can join in proudly singing-
"God ever keep us true to Thee
Thy faith that truth shall make men free
Shall guide thy loyal sons and daughters a'right
And fend them thru the skeptic night."
Today as we sing the Alma Mater, let us give mean-
ing to FAMU:
F-fortitude to travel the rigorous road ahead.
A-ambition and achievement
M-maximum involvement and a militancy for
U-unaminity in preserving our heritage so well
that others will join and support us.
Above all else, I commend to you our challenge, "The
Orange and the Green, Thy Sons Shall Ever Defend."