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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: David Ashwell Jr.
Interviewee: Charles Harris
UF 272 AB
April 10, 1995
A: My name is David Ashwell Jr. It is 4: 00 p.m. on Monday April 10, 1995. We are in
the Allen E. Newharth Library, commonly known as the Journalism Reading
Room in Weimer Hall, in a study cubicle. Could you state your name and title
here at the University of Florida?
H: My name is Charles Harris. I am director of the Minority Programs Office for the
College of Journalism and Communications.
A: Tell me when and where you were born.
H: I was born in 1956 in Jacksonville, Florida, which is my hometown.
A: Did you grow up in Jacksonville?
H: I grew up in Jacksonville, attended elementary school and high school in
Jacksonville. I left in 1974 when I graduated from Andrew Jackson High School.
I started here at UF in the fall of 1974.
A: Who were your parents?
H: My parents are Charlie Harris Sr. and Alberta Harris.
A: What was their influence on you? Did they encourage you to move on in education
the way you have?
H: Yes, they have. In fact, neither one of my parents was able to graduate from high
school. They both come from families with nine and ten kids, both from rural
backgrounds. Instead of going to school, they worked in fields and things like
that. I do have a younger brother. One of the things that I think is important is
some of my early memories as a child was getting books for Christmas. At the
time when I got the books, I was as a child disappointed. I wanted toys, but my
parents gave me books and that helped with my reading ability and
comprehension. Although they were unable to get to a point where they could
graduate from high school, they really did support me and my brother with
educational pursuits and always pushed education as a way of better life and
A: Is your brother the only sibling you have?
H: Yes, a younger brother who is still living at home now in Jacksonville. My parents
are divorced. They got divorced when I was six years old. Even though they are
divorced, I still talk with both of them. Again they have always been pro-
education as a way of bettering oneself.
A: What is your brother's name?
H: My brother's name is Augie Dion Harris.
A: Has he made it as far as you have?
H: No. He went the military route. He was in the military for a while and is now back in
A: You said you went to high school in Jacksonville.
H: Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville, right.
A: And then you came to the University of Florida in 1974.
H: I came to the University of Florida in the fall of 1974.
A: What was your first impression of UF?
H: It is funny. When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, I applied to three
schools. I applied to Florida, Florida State, and Stetson. I was accepted at all
three, but I honestly did not know a lot about college, the college experience,
requirements, and expectations until I actually got here. One of the reasons I
selected UF was because back in Jacksonville where I grew up, the apartment
we stayed in was in the shadow of the Gator Bowl. So I was familiar with Florida
from the Florida/Georgia football game. I was a little bit more familiar with
Florida, plus I wanted to play football. That is why I decided to attend UF rather
than the other schools.
When I first got to UF, I must admit I was overwhelmed. I had no idea that the
University would be as large as it is and as it was in 1972, twenty some odd
years ago. It was huge then. I had no knowledge of what college was all about,
how it worked, how you accumulate credits toward a degree, or how you go
about selecting a major. I just sort of came and did not have any extensive
background, knowledge, or experience about what I was getting into.
When I got here, they were overbooked in housing. They had temporary triples,
temporary housing. I was in a lounge area over in the Tolbert area. There were
about twelve of us in the lounge. We stayed in there for the first two or three
weeks, and then they eventually moved us out to rooms. For someone who did
not know any better, I thought that was our permanent room at first. They said,
"Oh no. You are just here temporarily." Again it was a growth and learning
experience for me from the minute I stepped on campus. I had not even visited
the campus before I came here, so I knew was orange and blue--the
Florida/Georgia football game.
A: Were you recruited with any sort of scholarship or aid?
H: No, not at all. I came in as a full admit student, but [had] no special admissions or
anything like that. No scholarships were offered. I just applied and came on my
own. I was not familiar with scholarships or anything along those lines. The
person who helped me was ironically not my high school counselor, but a
counselor at another high school in Jacksonville who knew me through her
husband, who was the faculty advisor for a club that I was in--Diversified
Cooperative Training, DCT Program. He told her about me. She is the one that
sat down with me and got a University of Florida catalogue, the financial aid
forms, and helped me fill out the paperwork and get everything sent off.
A: What was her name?
H: I cannot remember her name right now.
A: But there was someone there to help you along.
H: There was someone that saw something in my and decided to help out. That is how
I got started.
A: Was there anyone here at UF that mentored you or helped you along?
H: Not really. Not in my first two years. My last two years (once I got into the college), I
considered my mentors to be two people in the college who are currently still in
the college. One is Joe Pisani [Joseph R. Pisani], who is the current chair of the
advertising department, and also Frank Pierce [Frank N. Pierce, Professor of
Journalism and Communications], who is retiring this semester. This is his last
semester at UF. Those are the two people that I could go to. As a student, they
gave me a feeling that they were genuinely concerned about me and about what
was going on with me. [They] sat down and talked with me about careers and
different things like that. In the first two years, I really just sort of looked at the
catalogue, which said you take x,y, and z. That is how I did it, just looking
through the catalogue.
A: Were there many African American students here when you first came?
H: I believe at the time there were about 900 at UF, which was a large number. I did not
join a fraternity or sorority. Back then, although the students had a closeness, it
was closer within the fraternities or sororities. Since I was not a member of a
fraternity, it sort of left me out in that a lot of the activities that students had going
on at the time were geared toward people that were in fraternities and sororities.
Since I was not a member, I really did not get invited to a lot of the parties and
things that went on. I did meet people that I was able to communicate with. I had
a lot of friends that were white students here at the University of Florida. I was
very active on my floor with the people that I met on my floor. I was a security
assistant in the dorms and worked in the dorms during the summers. So I met a
lot of people through the dorms rather than through traditional social outlets, like
fraternities, sororities, and things like that.
A: It sounds like you had a pretty good experience.
H: Yes, I did. It was an interesting experience. Looking back on it, I did not hold any
positions of leadership, such as BSU or student government. Within the housing
area, I became very well known. In fact, they did a little story about me. They
had a little newsletter in the dorms at the time in the Broward/Rawlings area.
They did a little story on me as a security assistant. Security guard is what we
called ourselves. So I got somewhat active through the residence halls, but not
really in any other ways. It was a good experience for me because in elementary
school, I went to an all black elementary school. Then in the ninth grade is when
all of the schools in the Jacksonville area were desegregated. In the tenth grade
was when I went to Andrew Jackson, which at the time prior to integration, was
an all white school. They closed down the black high school, and we got bused
to Andrew Jackson. Before that time, I really did not have a lot of cultural
experiences outside of my own. Going to high school, playing football, [being]
president of a club (it was a National Honor Society), I met a lot of people that
helped me. In fact, the lady that I told you that helped me was white. [She] was
someone who took time out to help me out.
When I came to UF, because I had integration in high school, it was not as much of a
cultural shock to me as I guess it was for some other people, simply because I
was the kind of person who got along with everyone anyway. I was never taught
in the house that one group was better than any other group and everyone was
all equal. When I came here, it was nothing unusual as far as race relations go.
A: You majored in journalism and communications?
H: I majored in advertising. I started here at UF as a psychology major. I went from
psychology, to economics, and a lot of others in between. Everything sounded
nice. Every semester I was changing majors. When I first got into the College of
Journalism, I came in as a public relations major. I took one PR course and it
turned me off. I said, "This is not for me." I decided to go into advertising
because I felt it would be an opportunity to be more creative and to fine tune my
creative skills. That is how I ended up in advertising.
A: Had you heard, before coming to the campus, about the 1971 protest of black
students here at the campus?
H: I did not hear about it before I got here. I am sad to say that while I was a student
here, I was unaware of it. The entire time I was here at UF, I was unaware of the
protest. I do not remember it. Maybe I was told about it, but I do not have any
memories of it at all of being told about it.
A: So it was not something that loomed large in the conversations among students?
H: Not the students that I dealt with. Among my black friends, most of the students
were people who went to either my high school or people from Jacksonville
because that was sort of a common bond for us, a way of easily meeting people
coming from the same hometown. It was never an issue. It was never discussed
at length by me or any of the students that I dealt with.
A: How would you characterize race relations on campus at the time when you were
here as an undergraduate?
H: I think that relations were somewhat different than they are now, keeping in mind that
we were just coming out of the 1960s. These were the early 1970s. College
students were still into the free love movement, the hippie movement, and all
those things were still going on. The Plaza was the place to be. They really did
have a lot of speakers that came through and talked with students. The Peace
Corps was real active on campus recruiting students at the time. A lot of people
were joining the Peace Corps. In fact, I thought about joining it myself. Things
were a little bit different. I think at the time because they were [better off]
economically in the country, there were plenty of resources to go around to
everyone. We did not have the competition for resources at the time. I do not
think there was competitiveness towards scholarships, admissions, and those
type of things. I did not see that. I would think race relations were better then
simply because [of the] mind frame of many of the people that were on campus.
Many of the white students, professors, and so forth were just coming out of the
1960s, and the turbulence of the 1960s. Everyone was more free love, hippies,
make the world a better place, peace signs, and those type of things. Not
everyone now, but I think overall that was the climate at the time.
A: Do you think students are less optimistic now?
H: Yes, I do. I used to use this when I was recruiting. I would say that when I was in
school, people wanted to be psychology or sociology majors. Now everyone
wants to be a business major, not everyone, but most students. When I talk with
freshman, it is either engineering, business, or medicine. Back then [people
said], "I want to be a sociologist." People were more into the people type of
careers, helping others. Now it is more geared toward how much money can be
made in the shortest period of time and get on with life. There is not much
willingness to put back into the community as there was in the early 1970s.
A: You think there is more competition--I do not want to say mean-spiritedness.
H: I think when you have limited resources, and as a country resources become more
limited, that brings out more competition among people. When there is $1 million
out there, and you only have ten people to give it to, everybody is happy.
Everybody is going to get a fair share. When you have $10 and 1 million people,
and you have got to decide who gets it and who does not, I think many times it
brings out a level of competition among people that really is not necessary. I see
some of this in my current position working with minority scholarships. People
say you are giving a scholarship to a minority, where I think in the 1970s,
questions like that would not have even been asked. People understood the
reasons why. Programs were being set up and being created. I think now again
because of limited resources [[please finish thought]]. For example, look at UF
when the White Student Union was the most popular. It was at a time where the
state did not give us a raise for three years. The state budget was in the toilet.
People were scrambling around for limited resources. I think that brings out or
highlights the differences among us when we are put in that situation.
A: When was the White Student Union at its peak?
H: The White Student Union was at their peak in 1989 to 1990, right around that time. It
was right before the student murders. Quite ironically, the student murders
brought people together as a campus. I saw some real bonding at that time.
The guy who started the White Student Union (Mark Wright I think was his
name), was an engineering student and from what I understand was looking for a
scholarship. [He] was told that the only scholarships that they had in engineering
at the time were minority scholarships. He felt that was not fair. That is how the
White Student Union got started. Then it sort of died away on it own once the
press went away and left it alone. It just sort of died a natural death. I think that
even though he may have had a serious concern there, many of the students
were not in touch with a lot of what the White Student Union was about. They
saw we have got an 83 percent majority now. Why do we need a White Student
Union? It is kind of ass backwards to do that when 83 percent of the students at
UF (it may have been more at that time) were white. I just do not think a lot of
students shared the same concerns that they had and they died a natural death.
A: You do not think we will see them any time soon?
H: It will not be the White Student Union. It may come back under a different name or
group, but it will not be a group that is set up to antagonize or intentionally disrupt
operations. It will be a group that might be willing to work within the system, just
as a lot of minority groups are learning the key is to work within the system to try
to make changes.
A: You mentioned before you wanted to play football when you came here. Did you
play football here?
H: No, I tried though. I came here with the idea of playing football. I was a walk-on for
the football team at the time. I forget the coach's name, but you had to have a
meeting with the coach. We were in this auditorium. It was dark. He said, "Why
do you want to be a Gator? What kind of experience do you have? Well let me
think about it." He called me back, and said, "Okay. You have been assigned
locker so and so." So I was a walk-on and thought I was doing really well. Back
at that time, Florida Field was still Astroturf. We were doing some drills on the
astroturf. My leg got caught up under me. I tore some ligaments in my knee. To
continue playing football, I would have had to have some surgery. Because I
was not a scholarship player, the athletic office was not going to pay for it, which
I understood because they only paid for scholarship athletes. At the time, I did
not have money at home to be used for what was considered elective surgery. It
was not considered life threatening or anything like that. My dream died with the
injury. After that, I did not go back out. I still have the damage too. I do not
need surgery unless I am going to play football. Those days are all behind me.
A: You are not planning on that now?
H: No, no more football. I play basketball recreationally, but no more football.
A: But you are still a Gator fan I take it?
H: Oh yes, a big Gator fan. In fact, I have got a relatives in Tallahassee, which is why I
applied to Florida State. We have a pretty good time during Florida/Florida State
A: I have a similar situation, which I will not go into. Were there any other leadership
activities you were involved in besides your dorm?
H: No. I was a member of a group called the African Youth Socialist Party at the time,
which was a socialist group that was not looking to overthrow the government,
but to establish more of a socialist government than what we have now. This
was a group of black and white students. We all wore flip flops and jeans, and
met in the Plaza. I was involved in the group. I used to go to meetings and
things like that, but did not hold any office. We did not have any pickets, sit-ins,
or anything along those lines. Outside of that, again, I was really involved with
the dorms. I got into the college and really was not involved. I was going to play
football. It is sad to say, but I was here to play football. I was really geared
toward that. Most of my friends were athletes or other students. I did have a lot
of friends who were athletes. There was a high school in Jacksonville, William
Raines High School, which for a while, UF had a close relationship with. A lot of
their players came here. I played against them. I knew a lot of the people and
players on the team. Looking back on it, [there] were not any leadership roles or
anything that I could put on a resume.
A: This socialist party interests me. How long had that been on campus?
H: I am not quite sure how long they had been around. It appeared to be a fairly new
organization. I was involved with them between my sophomore and junior years.
My senior year I was out trying to find a job. It was pretty much my sophomore
and junior year. They were a group out of St. Petersburg, which I think is there
home. I do not think they are still around. I have not heard about them since I
left UF. They felt that the government should be more socialist, that it should be
helping out everyone, and that we should not have the class system that we do
have now which is based upon income. It was more about sharing the wealth
with everybody. Again, it was one of the last groups coming out of the 1960s,
with power to the people and things like that. We were against the Vietnam War-
-no, the Vietnam War had ended. It ended in 1973 and 1974. What did we
protest? We did not protest much. We met and I used to get information from
the office. I used to tell friends that I know I am on a FBI mailing list somewhere.
At that time when I was with them, it was not a real active group that just met
and talked about some things that we should be doing. Not all the members
were students. Some of them were Santa Fe students and some were the
generational students that came to Gainesville and never left. They had made
Gainesville a home. It was group, but again we were not as radical as some
groups. Again, being involved in their group, I had no idea about the sit-in in
1971. That was totally new. I do not have any memories of it as a student. I
remember hearing about it when I left and stayed involved with UF, which I have
done since I graduated. I have always followed the sports teams and any news
about UF, I try to keep up on. We did not have much. We did not do much as a
group. We were a social group because we had a lot of political thoughts, but we
were not an action group.
A: You said it was called the African Youth Socialist Party. Was it focused on American
issues or did it have more of a global focus?
H: It dealt more with issues in America. It reminds me of the group we have on campus
(I believe they are still on campus), the Student Coalition Against Racism. It
reminds me of a group like that. Whenever there was a reason or an
emergency...there is a word I am thinking of.
A: Any sort of tension on the campus?
H: Tension or...
H: Issues that came up that people felt needed to be discussed or something along
those lines we would follow up on. It was more dealing with what is happening in
America and opening up the government to all people, and things like that.
A: So when did you graduate from UF?
H: I graduated August 26, 1978. I came in 1974, and graduated in 1978.
A: That was with your bachelors degree?
H: Bachelors of science in advertising.
A: Did you do any graduate work?
H: I have done some graduate work at the University of North Florida. When I left UF,
and went back home to Jacksonville, they started a graduate program in 1979
there--an MBA program. I started it and completed about thirty-three hours. It
was a sixty hour program because I was coming in without a background in
business. I had to take all the foundation and core classes. I started that and
was going full time. In 1980, the state of Florida was desegregating higher
education. They gave each of the state universities a grant to increase minority
enrollment. The schools could use the grant to create new services or hire
someone. UNF used the money to hire their first minority recruiter. I was a
graduate assistant working in the registrar's office when the grant came through
and was approved. In fact, I was the second person at UF to know that it was
approved because I just happened to be standing in the registrar's office when he
got the phone call that the grant was approved. So I was the first person to apply
for that job. What happened was that school became part time and then no time
because the job required traveling. I was trying to go to school and travel at the
same time. Going out for weeks at a time, it just did not work. I stopped my
pursuit of the MBA and started working full time.
A: And that was at the University of North Florida?
H: The University of North Florida, right. I do plan on starting a grad program at UF this
A: In business?
H: No, not in business. I have decided on education since I have spent sixteen years in
education. That is going to be my career. I have decided to pursue a masters in
education with specialization in student personnel through the guidance and
counseling program here.
A: What brought you to UF?
H: Like I said, I have spent sixteen years in student recruitment, specifically, minority
student recruitment and retention. I started at UNF in 1980 with a grant. When
the grant ran out, the university did assume the position and I had permanent
standing with them. I stayed with UNF until 1984. In 1984, I went to the
University of South Florida. It was more of a promotional opportunity for me. I
worked in their admissions office from 1984 to 1987. In 1987, I had a chance for
another promotion. I came to UF as assistant director for minority admissions,
working in our admissions office here, but working specifically in the area of
community college recruitment. This was a new position that the University had
established, which is ongoing now. I was the first person in that position at the
University of Florida. I worked in admissions from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, I came
over to the College of Journalism. When I was at UNF and USF recruiting, it was
always interesting to me because I was a UF grad when I would go out to these
college days and college career day programs. Low and behold, most of the
students wanted to go to UF. I did not want to talk UF down because my
experience here was one that I would tell students, "Yes. It is okay. You can go
there and be successful." It was always ironic to me that I was recruiting for
other schools, and in the back on my mind, [I thought], "Yes, that is okay." So
when I had the opportunity to come to UF, I took advantage of it. because I
always followed UF and kept up with the sports teams. It was a chance to come
back and be back home. I kind of wanted that anyway because I had a lot of
fond memories of Gainesville and the University.
A: How long have you held your present position?
H: I have been in my present position since 1989. This is my sixth year. May will make
six years in the College of Journalism.
A: What exactly do you do?
H: As director of the Minority Programs Office, it is really is a student support office for
minority students in the college. It involved recruitment of minority students. I
serve as an academic advisor and monitor academic progress. We assist
students with jobs and internships. My office is located in the Scholarship and
Placement Center for the college, which has been a very advantageous position
for us. We have been able to help many of our students with scholarships and
internships by being in the right office and getting that information as soon as it
comes in. When we first started the program, it was a grant program again. It
was funny how I started in 1980 with a grant, and found myself on a grant in
1989 when I came over to the college. With the grant, our first target audience
was black students going into advertising and journalism. In 1992, we opened a
program up to all majors and all minority students. Now instead of just working
with black students and advertising and journalism, I work with all minority
students interested in any major within the college.
A: What exactly do you do to bring minorities here to UF?
H: We do several things through my office. One is we write to all of the newspaper
advisors, and to the high schools and community colleges throughout the state of
Florida. We write to them each fall updating them on our program, and ask them
for names of students that they feel would be interested in our program. We talk
about the scholarships that we have to offer and our graduation rate. Then we
ask the advisors for the names of students that they feel will be interested. We
also publish a newsletter, which is called Colors, that we send out to high school
and community college students. That goes to not only the newspaper advisors,
but [also to] the general counselors that I have met through my years of working
in higher education. I have just sort of kept that list of the different jobs that I
have been in with me. There are certain people that I have met at the community
colleges and high schools that I know work with students. I usually send them
the newsletter. They send us the names of these students back. We then place
them on a mailing list. We send them a newsletter and information from time to
time. In the spring, we have a visitation program where we invite the students
and their parents to come by and see what we have at UF, visit with us, and find
out more about opportunities to meet administrators and our dean. We also go
out and recruit. I visit community colleges and high schools throughout the
state, talking with students about opportunities and careers in journalism. When I
go out, although I am targeting minority students when I am out, I am
representing the entire college. I talk to all students about opportunities and
things like that--high schools as well. I will speak to high schools. For example,
a lot of high schools have always had newspapers. A lot of them have broadcast
centers now--studios and things like that. I go in and usually speak to the mass
media class about opportunities at UF. I also attend two statewide conventions--
the Florida Community College Press Association Convention and the Florida
Scholastic Press Association Convention. I usually do presentations and
workshops on diversity at these two programs. I also do workshops on general
admissions to a state university, with specific information about UF and the
College of Journalism while I am there. Those are some of the things that we do
to recruit students. My visits, as well as getting names from counselors, keeping
in touch with the students, and inviting them to come and visit with us.
A: Sounds like you recruit pretty heavily. Is it a pretty successful effort?
H: It has been pretty successful. This year was the first year since I have been in
college where numbers dipped a little bit. Looking into it, what we found out
happened was that this was the first year that the college at the University fully
implemented the MAPP program, the Monitoring Academic Progress Policy.
What happened was that there were students in the pipeline that were not
admitted to the college that should have been admitted to the college. For
example, there was a young lady that had been recruited since she was in the
tenth grade. She came here to UF. She completed sixty hours and had a 3.52
GPA. She was denied through the MAPP Program because she was missing a
Gordon Rule class. What happens with this type of student is they get a letter
saying you need to find another major. It just so happened that I know this
student, and she received a letter. She said, "Mr. Harris I got this letter saying I
have been denied and I need to find another college. What is going on?" We
looked back at the applicant pool was with the MAPP Program, even if a student
was missing one course, they were automatically denied. We have had to go
back and look at that program. We have made some changes. We do not
anticipate that happening again. The problem is there were students in the
pipeline. When I say the pipeline, I mean students who were sophomores going
into their junior year that should have been admitted into the college, but were
not admitted. We looked back and found the reason they were not admitted.
The computer had denied them. They never even got a chance to petition the
college or find out anything from the college or the program. The MAPP Program
had itself eliminated many students from consideration. I saw the numbers in the
fall, and I knew there was something wrong. We looked back on it and found out
where the problem was. We have been able to correct that. Now what happens
is we get a list of the students who are in the applicant pool, so our office can
take a look at those and help those students that at least a 2.5 to get into the
college. We try to help those that are below that. Again a 2.5 is what we really
try to look at for admission into the college. We have been able to take care of
that. That has been the only year that our numbers have gone down. The
College of Journalism has consistently had the highest minority enrollment of any
of the colleges percentage-wise since we started our program. Number-wise,
liberal arts and sciences is the largest because they have 17,000 students. They
will beat everybody out number-wise, but percentage-wise, we have always been
one of the leaders.
A: That is what I have heard. I have heard you do a good job. Do you see yourselves
as leading the way in retention and keeping students here?
H: I mentioned to a student that I was talking with earlier who was a 2LS that is planning
to come into our college. She just decided to change her major. One of the
things I told her was when we looked back at 1992 or 1993, at that time we were
still just working with black students. We looked back at those students who
were admitted and how many graduated within a three year time period because
it is three years rather than two, especially with our programs requiring
internships and things like that. We found that 80 percent of the black students
who came in graduated within the three year time period. As I go around and
talk to people, I tell them that is one of the things that I am most proud of. Not
only have we been able to attract students, but we have also been able to
graduate students. Many of those students have found jobs in industry as well,
especially those students with a journalism background. The advertising and PR
majors have found jobs, but not necessarily directly related to their major. Plus
we have had a lot of our students go on to law school, a lot of them here at UF.
In fact, I know of at least ten students that have either been admitted to our
College of Law or are currently enrolled in the College of Law. [There are] at
least ten and maybe more. I thought that was a very high number coming out of
a program, for a program which is not considered a traditional route for law.
A: So you have a good pool of strong students that come through.
H: Yes, [I] am very proud. In fact, if you look at many of the minority students who are
leaders on campus here at UF, you find that many of them are students from the
College of Journalism. I say that looking at the Black Student Union or a lot of
students who are outstanding graduating seniors who receive leadership awards
or Who's Who. If you look back at those students, especially the black students
since we have had our program, I would say most of those students are from the
College of Journalism. I do not have any data in front of me to support that, but
the students that I know that have been invited and invited me to Who's Who
induction and Hall of Fame at UF, most of them have been College of Journalism
A: Do you think the rest of the University is following your lead in this respect?
H: I will tell you one of the reasons we have been successful is not only what I do, but a
lot of it had to do with the leadership of Ralph Lowenstein [Ralph L. Lowenstein,
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Journalism and Communications], who was our
dean at the time. I have been in the business too long to think that one person
can make a difference. The commitment has to come from the top. When Dean
Lowenstein made it a priority for the college, I must admit it made my job a whole
lot easier because he led the charge. I did not have to get up and talk about the
need for diversity and things like that in meetings. He was the one that would do
that. In fact, one of the things that I was real proud of was each of our
departments have an advisory council made up of professionals, some UF grads
and some not, that come each year and take a look at our program to let us know
where we are. One year we had a joint program with all four advisory councils at
the same time. Dean Lowenstein's message to them was about diversity. That
was his opening, not his closing statement. Many times in many programs, that
is the last thing spoken--oh by the way we are trying to increase minority
numbers. He always led off most of his discussions talking about it. Again that
helped me in my position because the commitment came from the top, so
everyone knew that the college was serious about it and wanted to make a
change not only for the college, but for the industry as well. That made my job a
whole lot easier in working with the departments and other offices. They knew
that it was a priority set by the dean.
A: You have stolen my thunder. I was going to ask you about a quote. I heard
someone say that UF heavily recruits minorities but does not do as well as it
might want to in graduating. But you are doing that.
H: Our college is somewhat unique in doing that. One of the things I think is important
to know too is that I have been recently appointed to a task force on minorities,
Minority Recruitment and Retention, headed up by Rod McDavis, dean of the
college of education. I have been on other task forces that have tried to look at
the same thing. One of the things that all of us initially agreed on when we met
was that the problem at UF is not necessarily new services because just about in
every college there is someone that does what I do in a support office. What we
have found is that we need to coordinate our services better. We have got
services in every college, but somehow or another, we are losing the
coordination. When students come into the University, they are not getting to the
people they need to be getting to in a timely fashion. This is not just minority
students. It affects all students. What happens is we look at the minority
students because the numbers are much smaller. You see more of an
immediate impact. The things that I am talking about are things that affect all
students. What happens when students come in, they are not really given the
opportunity to work with their college. The are advised through liberal arts and
sciences the first two years. One thing we found is students need to get in touch
with someone in their college or connect with the college as soon as they can.
When you know about where you are going and what college you are going to be
going into, when you have had a chance to meet with some of the people, when
you have had a chance to find out who is who, and when you get ready to go into
that college, it is not as much of a traumatic experience for you. You know who
is who. The dean is not someone you are seeing for the first time, but [someone]
you have seen at programs, activities, and things like that. You meet a
department chair that may have told you, "When you get ready to come into the
college, let me know that you are applying." We have found that what we need
to do at UF is coordinate the services that we do have. We do a better job of
coordinating recruitment and retention. Some of that is going on now. There
may have been a little headway. It is happening but it is being done informally. It
is not a formal process and it needs to be more formalized. We are doing it
simply because of the people that are in place. If those people were not in place,
then the coordination would not be going on. We are going to look at better ways
of organizing what we have here, and how to get students from point A to point B
a whole lot quicker, rather than having them come to us when they have fallen in
trouble. When they are getting ready to get kicked out, then they go look for
someone to help them out. We want to try to get to them before that time.
A: How soon do you think you will have some sort of plan put together or some sort of
H: We have only had one meeting. We are supposed to be meeting next week at our
second meeting. One of the things that the provost, who gave us our charge,
said was he wanted something done fairly soon. This is not going to be a year or
two year type study. He wants to come up with some specific strategies. I do
not think he gave us a definite time line, but I think he wants something done this
calendar year. [[end of this tape]].
A: Are you involved in the recruitment of graduate students here?
H: No. Graduate student recruitment is held directly through our Graduate Studies
Division; however, this year was my first year in helping out with the grad
visitation program. I give the welcome as part of Dr. Michael Phillip's [Associate
Dean, Graduate School and Minority Programs, Scholar, Oral Diagnostic
Services] minority graduate visitation program to the students that come in.
Those students are coming to the college. In the past, we have just had one
person to show them around and talk with them. This year, for this last visitation
program, the college had a more formalized procedure for the students where
they got a chance to meet with different people, and talk with graduate students.
They had a session with me just to talk about my office and what we do on the
undergrad level. We try to formalize the process. It was something that we tried.
My official responsibilities do not include graduate student recruitment.
A: Do you have any involvement with the voice media or t.v. media activities
around here like WRUF?
H: Somewhat, but very little. Really the station is a commercial and professional
station. Even though we are in the same building, our relationship is not as close
as most people think it is. The department that has the closest relationship with
our station is of course our telecommunications academic department. We do
some joint activities from time to time, but there is nothing formalized as far as
working with the stations go.
A: You mentioned that you do extensive recruiting around Florida.
A: Do you go outside of Florida at all, or do you have recruitment efforts that extend
outside of Florida?
H: We really do not recruit outside of Florida, being a state university. Again, 90 percent
of our students are required by law to be residents of the state of Florida. I do
not think our citizens would like us spending our tax dollars outside. We do not
actually recruit outside of the state; however, the admissions office does recruit
out of state. [They attend] visit programs, conventions, and career fairs out of
state. What they will do is if they meet a student that is interested in journalism,
then they will forward their name to me. We do have students from out of state
that we keep on our mailing list that we send information about visitation
programs and things like that. We send our newsletter too, but we do not
actually go out of state to recruit the students. They somehow find out about us
through the media or just from contacting the University Admissions Office.
Again, we just follow up with them, but do not actively recruit those students.
A: As far as you know, assuming you track this sort of thing, how are your students
doing as they move out into the journalistic world?
H: We have not done a very thorough job of tracking our graduates. In fact, when you
were in the office, the young man who was calling was one of our graduates who
is working at The Saint Augustine Record, a print major. He wanted to know if I
was going to be attending the regional conference of the National Association of
Black Journalists that he is planning on attending. We have not taken a careful
look to track our students as to how many of them are in the profession and how
many are not. However, one of the things I would like to do in my new role as
scholarship and placement director here in the college is to try to go back and
take a look. There are plenty of students that I keep in touch with. I have a file of
what I call alumni names of our students. Those are the ones that usually call
back and let us know what they are doing. We have not put it in any more
structured format. That is one of the things that I hope to do this summer.
A: You maintain a pretty good rapport after graduation with students?
H: Oh yes. I have a lot of students that still come back. When they are in town, they
will stop by or call. In fact, one of our students who was very active in the college
as well as with our office, comes back with his wife and little girl now to visit us.
He was last here, I think, in the spring last year. He comes back, and it is nice. I
remember him when he was an undergrad, and now he has gone off and got a
family. There are a few that really stay in close contact, and there are some that
will call when they need us. Others will list me as a reference without telling me,
and I find out where they are working because I get information back. There are
many of our students that do stay in contact. I think part of the reason for that is
because our program is so new. We began the program in the 1988/1989
academic year. There were students in the program that were here before we
started the program. Those same students were here once the program started.
Those are the ones that pretty much stay in the closest contact with us because
those are the ones that remember before we had the program, and saw how
much the program was able to help them and give them support. Those are the
ones that generally stayed in closest contact.
A: What kind or cross section of journalism students come through your office? Are
they mostly print specialist? What do you see?
H: Our services are open to all students, all majors. Most of our scholarships are for
advertising and journalism majors. However, as far as which ones come to see
me, it is pretty much even across the board between advertising, public relations,
journalism, and telecommunications. Right now telecommunications is the most
popular program we have in the college. Everybody wants to be on t.v. I would
just say simply because there are more students in that program, that is the one
where I get most of my student visitors from. However, again as far as working
with them, it is pretty much even across all four majors.
A: You were talking about students staying in contact, do you see your office as a sort
of focal point of the black community on the campus? One focal point?
H: Yes, you could say that in that a lot of people see us a resource. One of the things
that I have tried to do and the University is trying to do a better job of (President
Lombardi has talked about it many times) is that the University needs to have a
larger presence in the Gainesville community. A couple of weeks ago, I hosted a
session of the Focus on Leadership Program, which is sponsored by The
Gainesville Sun. It is a thirteen week program that brings in black leaders or
people that have the potential to be leaders to introduce them to Gainesville in
different sessions. I helped host a session on the University of Florida. I had
some people from the University come out and talk with them about the
community and what the University is doing. I also talked about some of the
things we are doing in the college. For example, we have a show called the B-
Side, which is a black public affairs show, which is aimed toward the Gainesville
community, not students on campus. All the issues and topics have to do with
things that affects the Gainesville community, such as street paving, garbage
pickup, and different stories like that, which are covered by the mainstream
media, but they try to spend a little bit more time and focus on the impact within
the black community. That is one of the things that we are doing here in the
college. The group that is putting together that show is a group of students from
the Association of Black Communicators. This is an all volunteer show. This is
something where we were approached by the general manager of WRUF AM
about putting together the show. The students took it upon themselves to work
on it. They have shaped it and molded it. Now they have the show going. It has
been on the air since November.
A: Where can one see that?
H: The show is a radio news magazine. It is on WRUF AM and FM. It is on WRUF AM
on Sunday at 9: 30. It is also broadcast on WRUF FM, Rock 105 at 8: 30 on
A: In that connection, I have heard it said that this campus has relatively few outlets for
building and maintaining the black community. As a former student now in your
administrative post, how do you view that?
H: Let me answer by saying this. I think that part of the problem in the Gainesville
community (currently) is there is no central voice or central communications
network to let them know what is happening. Specifically I am talking about a
black newspaper. There are not things like that going on. There are things that
happen in the community, but there is no way for people to know about what is
going on. There is no way to publicize events, or to share ideas and information.
One of my goals is within the next two years to start one. That is one of the
things that I am looking forward to doing. Again, I do it because I see that
without a central voice or a form to express oneself or ideas, then without that
outlet, there are many things that go on that people are unaware of. It is very
hard for people to come together as a group or community. For example, if you
want to get involved, how do you get involved? How do you get information on
getting involved? How do you know what the issues are that are affecting people
in the community? With things going on on campus, it is the same exact thing.
How do you know about these things unless you have some way of tying it all
together, getting that information, and disseminating it in a timely fashion? That
is one of the things that I am looking at.
One of the reasons why I have thought about this idea is when I first came to
Gainesville, there were two black newspapers, which really was not a good idea
because in a town this size, advertisers are not going to support two black
newspapers in this area here. They sort of competed with each other, and both
went bankrupt or just stopped publishing.
A: What were those two called?
H: One was The Gainesville Journal and I think the other was The Gainesville Voice.
They were not papers that were put together by people with a very thorough
background in journalism. That might be the reason why the papers failed. They
did not have the availability of resources like someone in my position does--
knowing the students, knowing that students need to write stories for clips and
things like that. They are looking for ways of getting these clips. I found that our
college can be a great resource for writers and things like that. That is one of the
reasons why I decided to do this.
A: Also you have resources as far as managerial types as well, to keep the paper going.
H: Right. I guess you can have the writers, but you need the management skills to keep
things going. Those management skills are the same skills that you would use in
almost any business. In fact, I was just mentioning to a student that newspapers
hire not only for the editorial side, but also for the business side. Those same
skills that he used with newspapers, are the same skills used working for banks,
a computer company, or whatever.
A: You do not see that there is a dearth of organizations. It is that you lack the
cohesiveness that communication helps bring.
H: Right. There are a lot of organizations. The graduate chapters of the fraternities and
sororities have chapters in the Gainesville area. There are a lot of service
organizations, such as DeLinks which is a national organization made up mostly
of black women. [There are] different organizations like that, so there are
organizations around that are national that have chapters in Gainesville, but
again the problem has been getting that information out about their activities and
programs. Plus the black church in Gainesville is one of the strongest
community institutions that we have right now.
A: How do you personally feel about the role of the black church in the community?
You say it is strong and important here. I know historically that black churches
have been very important in the community. What is your position on that?
H: I need to go more. I think they provide an important role. As you mentioned earlier,
historically black churches at one time held the role of teacher, role model, and
everything else for a lot of black youths. I can remember when I was in the sixth
or seventh grade that there was a teacher's boycott. The teachers were on strike
for pay raises. One of the things that was organized in my neighborhood that at
the local churches, retired teachers had volunteered to keep us abreast of
classes, and came in and actually taught classes. All the churches got together,
and had little classes where they tried to maintain the educational level of
students and kept students in that frame of mind. They have played an important
I think through time, just as what has happened with mainstream churches in the 1980s,
there were a lot of people questioning their faith and spirituality. We got into
more of the me decade, a little bit more of a self indulgent type thing. People
kind of shied away from the church. That happened in the mainstream churches
as well as with black churches. In the 1990s, I think people are again trying to
become more spiritual and think about more than just making the almighty dollar.
[They] want a quality of life that reflects a strong, spiritual base, and a strong
outlook. I think there are more people returning to the church now because they
still see it as a strong base for everything that we do in life. The lessons that one
learns in church can be applied to just about everything in life.
A: What are the important predominantly black denominations in Gainesville? Is it the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, or more of a traditional Baptist or Methodist
H: That is hard to say and narrow down. I would say the three that are strongest in
Gainesville are AME, the Missionary Baptist, and Baptist, which is Southern
Baptist. If fact, I think the three largest churches in Gainesville (again since I do
not go I do not know for sure) are Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Mt. Moriah
Missionary Baptist Church, and Greater Bethel AME Church.
A: This is a personal question. Do you belong to any of those?
H: I joined a church when I was twelve. I have not joined any here in Gainesville,
although for about three or four years, I did attend Greater Bethel AME Church.
A: I am going to shift gears a little bit now. I am sure you remember in 1991 the BAM
(Black Awareness Movement).
H: Yes. I had several students who were involved in that.
A: Could you tell me about that?
H: Several of the students who were involved were in the College of Journalism and I
had a chance to talk with them on a regular basis. BAM was sort of created from
the sit-in [where] some black students had [protested] Student Government,
which was based on what they felt at the time was an unfair way that Student
Government was handling budgets. They felt that black students were not
getting their fair share of the budget. So these students did sit-in and protest it.
Afterwards, BAM was developed. BAM was sort of an outgrowth of the sit-in.
However, once the controversy surrounding the budget was taken care of, then
BAM lasted for maybe an additional year. After that, it sort of diffused. Many of
the students were members of the Black Student Union, so they just went back to
the Black Student Union. One of my students, who is currently in law school,
was a member of that. Again, it was at a time when we getting out of the 1980s
when people were into this self indulgence type of thing. The White Student
Union was on its last legs. I think it was almost a reaction to the White Student
Union to be honest with you, and [also] the budget matters at that time. It was
more of a reaction to the White Student Union. It eventually did just sort of
dissolve. It was around for about a year or two. I spoke with a lot of students
about it. A lot of students were angry. In my opinion, they were not necessarily
angry with the University, but society at the time. There were a lot of proposed
cutbacks, just as we are seeing now, sixteen years later. There were a lot of
cutbacks and a lot of students felt it was time to renew the civil rights battle.
One of the things that also happened at the time was Tony Brown, who was here
visiting, was one of our visitors. I do not remember if it was Black History Month
or some other event. One of the things that he told the students was that the
fight for civil rights was over. That battle was won in the 1960s with the Civil
Rights Act and the Voting Act. He felt the biggest challenge for students now
was to take advantage of the opportunity to be in school, and then to go into their
communities and try to make a change there by being leaders, getting involved
with city councils, PTAs, and doing that. He felt that right now, instead of
protesting, the main initiative should be concentrating on getting a degree,
learning as much as they can, and going out into their communities and making a
difference. Not that all the students heard him, but I think that sort of set the
theme for a lot of students. Okay, we were banging our head against the wall
here, but if we just go ahead, get our degree, and then try to make a difference in
the community, then perhaps we will have much more success. I think a lot of
students heard what he said. His visit was around the same time that BAM was
going on. I think some students heard him. It got students to think differently
about what they were doing. I sort of agree with the philosophy that now is the
time, in a situation like this with the resources that the University of Florida has to
offer students who are willing to take advantage of them, this is an excellent
opportunity to learn as much as you can, find out how to develop leadership
skills, fine tune those leadership skills, and then go back to the community. That
is really where you are able to make a difference, not fighting over budgets and
things like that at this level. Do not lose focus of the big picture. The big picture
is trying to make a difference in your community.
A: It sounds like you are describing yourself.
H: I guess that is sort of my philosophy. It has been two or three years since I actually
participated in the Martin Luther King march which they have on Martin Luther
King Day here. It has become an annual event here in Gainesville. One of the
reasons why I stopped is that some of the people that were marching were
marching because it was a social event, and not necessarily because it was a
memorial to the march on Washington. I also realize that not everyone has to be
the drum major to make a difference in life. That is one thing I try to preach to
students. You do not have to necessarily be the leader. In your own little way, if
you just take the time to volunteer for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program
or work with an after school program one Saturday a month, then with little things
like that, you can make a change. I think a lot of times we get caught up in
wanting to be the leader and wanting to be in charge, thinking that is how we
make things happen. Really the little things that you do sometimes have much
more of a positive impact than getting up and speaking a lot of rhetoric about this
or that. Trying to go back and be a positive role model in your community I think
is more important.
A: Do you see a lot of that in students, not just black students, but students in general
on this campus? Do you see them going out into the community and doing
H: I see more students who are willing to do it, and more students who are interested in
doing it. Again, Lombardi talks about the University publicizing what we do a lot
more. I have found that there are various student organizations that have
volunteer programs that are doing a lot of things in the community--taking time to
return something back to the community. I do not think we do a very good job of
publicizing that. I would say that if you look at the student organizations on
campus, more than half do have some type of volunteer program or service
program where they try to make a difference. Those things are not being
publicized. I think more students are willing to do this than they were in the
1980s. I really see the 1980s as more of a me decade. The main thing was
making the dollar.
I do not see that as much now, although students are still interested in making the
dollar, I think many more students are willing to help out. For example, I know
that Dr. Bill Simmons [William J. Simmons, Assistant Dean for Student Services,
Director, Leadership Development] over in the Office of Student Services had a
program where he was getting some students together to go out to Williston
Elementary School to work with students. He was able to get students on a
moments notice. Half the reason I know about it is because two of the students
happen to be students from the College of Journalism that came back and told
me about it. They were real interested in doing it. The last time I talked to them
about it, even though the students are no longer doing it through Student
Services as a program, some are still going out and doing it on their own. They
did meet some young kids that they enjoyed talking to, so they are still going out
on their own just to keep in touch with the kids. I think that means a lot. I think
that is where we are heading as a society. We are going to see more and more
Earlier I talked about competition for resources. I think eventually, we are going to have
to realize that everyone is going to have to work together. If we are going to
continue to grow as a country, everyone is going to have to work together
regardless of the number of resources. The main thing is I guess going back to
socialism. Everybody has got to pitch in and help out.
A: Make the most of what we have.
H: Make the most of what we have, exactly.
A: Do you think that the relationship between the community and the University
population, from both ends, could be organized better?
H: I know the black community is not as strong as it could be. I attribute that to the fact
that if you look at integration of the University of Florida, we are talking less than
twenty years ago (less than a generation). There still are many people who
remember when they were not allowed into the University community. The
Gainesville community at large, I think supports the University and understands
the importance of the University to Gainesville, the amount of dollars the
University brings in, and the amount of money that students spend. I think there
still are a lot of people in the general community [[please finish thought]]. It is
not that they do not like the students and student activities. Unfortunately,
outside of volunteer programs, a lot of times when the community hears about
students is when they are having a party and things get out of hand. Sometimes
the reasons these students are having these parties is in the academic setting
here, there is a lot of stress that comes with being a student at the University of
Florida. There are a lot of demands on you. UF is unlike any other school in the
state, as far as what they demand of students. Because of that, when our
students want to relax, they really want to relax. They work hard all semester,
just finish that twenty page paper, and have had three tests in the same day, so
when they want to relax, they really do want to relax. Unfortunately, what the
general community sees is when students go out and perhaps have too much to
drink, and act irresponsible. Those are the things that are highlighted. I know
with the Greek system, the Greeks do a lot of community service. It is only when
something negative happens that you get a lot of press on it. I think sometimes
the community thinks that all students do is just party, but they do not really see
[efforts]. If the community had a chance to go with the student during a typical
day and see what is required of them in their various classes, organizations
meeting at all hours of the night, and different things like that, [there] would be
much more appreciation. I do not know if there ever will be a time when the
community completely understands the role of students. It is hard for anyone to
understand the role of students. Let us say people in Jacksonville are [not]
familiar with the educational setting and how things work probably do not
understand the life of a student and what students go through. The things you
hear about are spring break or when students are out doing crazy things. You do
not hear about the good things that happen. More of that needs to be publicized.
Again, President Lombardi is making a concerted effort to get more information
about what is going on campus out to the community to let them know that we
are doing some positive things.
A: Is the administration making a concerted effort in an organized way to move out into
the community and do community service?
H: To answer your question, yes in my opinion. One of the things that passed by my
desk about a month ago, was a request for information about public service. It
was sent to all faculty members, and it asked what are you doing on the service
sector. Faculty members are normally responsible for teaching research and
service. The president wanted to know what type of service. In fact, this is an
annual survey that is done which asks what type of things were you doing that
were outside of your job description that you have done to benefit the community.
I mention things from time to time I will speak on various programs in the
community, career workshop, where I am talking to kids in maybe the seventh or
eighth grade. It is not like I am actually recruiting them for journalism, but
[encouraging] them to stay in school and the importance of a college education.
Some things are being done. I know the last listing that we got, information was
sent directly to the Information and Publication Services Division of the
University. So I believe they do have that information.
One of the other things they do is ask us each year if you have a certain level of
expertise in an area, to provide that information to them so that if people call and
want to speak with someone that is considered a spokesperson in a particular
area, they will have that information available so they can readily share with the
media. We are doing it bug again, there is a lot more that needs to be done.
A: Talking of the public and public debate, as you well know, there is a lot of tumult
about Affirmative Action. Given your vantage point and your position, how do
you feel about the way that discussion is going in society?
H: It is interesting. I think right now it is being used as a political football, which I do not
think is fair because this is a very serious matter. I think it is a very important
matter for our country, not just the University. One of the things I want to be
clear on is that I am a believer in Affirmative Action programs, but I am not a
believer in quotas or a quota system. When I say I believe in Affirmative Action
programs, I am a believer in programs that help to create diversity. Those
programs do not necessarily have to be mandated programs like 10 percent of
your student body or work force is going to be this or that. That can also work
against minorities. If a company is already at 10 percent and the federal
mandate is 10 percent, you may not get hired because they can easily say, "We
have our 10 percent." Numbers can work for or against you. Again I do believe
that it is important to practice diversity. I think as the United States becomes
more of multi-racial country, in that there are people of many different racial
backgrounds. We are all not black, white, green, and purple anymore. There is
a lot of mixing that is going on in the US. I think it is going to be more important
in the future that people learn to get along with each other. In fact, in my
diversity workshops, what I talk about is the importance. Once again, as minority
numbers (population numbers) grow and grow, if the country is going to be a
productivity country and a world leader, as these minorities grow, they are going
to have to be assimilated into the population at a level where they are going to be
able to be productive, which means training, being involved with management
programs, getting an opportunity to make decisions, and make important
decisions in corporations. I think that is going to be very important. Again, we as
a society and country are growing. The minority populations are the fastest
growing populations. I just think that it makes not only moral sense but good
business sense for us to try to look at programs that are going to help create
diversity. Again, that does not necessarily mean that you are going to say 10
percent of your work force is going to be made up of minorities and women,
which is the way a lot of diversity and Affirmative Action programs are set up
I think one of the other things that is really important too is that the early Affirmative
Action Program was geared toward the work place. In fact, I was watching a
show not too long ago, when the original architect of Affirmative Action plans was
being interviewed. It was done during the Nixon administration. It was done
basically on a trade and union type of format. One of the things that I think really
went wrong with Affirmative Action was is that when many companies were told
you need to diversify your work place or work force, you need to make sure in
your applicant pool that you have qualified minorities. I think what happened with
a lot of companies is that they felt is was a mandate. If there was an opening,
they had to hire a minority whether that minority was qualified or not. That was
not the intent of the rule. The rule was just to make sure that all qualified
applicants were considered in the pool. If you had an opening of ten applicants,
some of those applicants would be either minorities or women. I think when
companies first started looking at Affirmative Action Programs and quotas, they
said, "This means we have got to hire this person whether they are qualified or
not." What happened is some people were hired that did not have the
qualifications for the job. Because they did not have the qualifications, they did
not perform at a level that was expected of them. People went back and said,
"That was an Affirmative Action hire, and we should not try that anymore
because that person was not qualified." Again, I do not think the rule meant that
you were going to hire that person, it just meant within that pool, you were going
to have qualified applicants. If that is the case--within the pool you have qualified
applicants, then chances are and statistics tell us that one of those hires might be
a minority or a woman. It was just getting people in a pool, but it was not just hire
someone simply because they are a minority whether they are qualified or not. I
think that is where everything went wrong. I think that is when there was a
backlash on programs. I also think the public really does not have a clear
understanding of Affirmative Action programs and reverse discrimination. In fact,
quite incidentally in The Gainesville Sun yesterday, in the editorial section, they
had a story about Affirmative Action. One of the things they mention in there is
that when people talk about reverse discrimination and how it is impacting
[things], when you go and look at court records and look at the number of cases
that have been brought about because of reverse discrimination and how many
were found to be indeed cases of reverse discrimination, the numbers are
minuscule to the amount of publicity that one case [gets]. One case will get
enough publicity and people will thing it is the program and it is happening all
over. Again, taking a thorough look at it, you will find that there are very few
instances of documented reverse discrimination. I think a lot of it has to do with
how people implement the program. It is not the program itself, but how it is
implemented. If the program is implemented in a way that it discriminates
against others, then I think that is wrong. I think most people and a lot of blacks
will say that is wrong too. People do want to be judged on their merit and
abilities. The main thing is getting into the pool. That is where Affirmative Action,
in my opinion, just gave people an opportunity to be in that applicant pool
whereby before they would have never even be considered because they would
have never gotten the chance to be in the pool. Instead of having one minority
out of the tentative pool, you may have three or four now that are qualified. I
think that is what people really wanted Affirmative Action programs to do, not to
say we are going to have 5 or 10 percent
A: So the idea is to give people a fair shake.
H: Exactly. Not getting into the history of it, but because in the past people were not
given those opportunities, it was just giving the opportunity but not giving a job to
someone who is unqualified. No one wants a pilot that is unqualified to be flying
a plane or an unqualified bus driver to be driving the bus, especially if you are a
passenger on there. You want the person who is the most qualified, whether
they look like you or not. You want the most qualified. That is what the where
everything got mixed up. I do not know if the federal government started
mandating you will have 5 or 10 percent, and companies said okay if you say
that, that is what we are going to do. I am not quite sure where it went wrong,
but something did go wrong with that. I think that is why people are not very
knowledgeable about what the program is, why it was started, and where it is
A: How do you feel about the argument that Affirmative Action should be tied more to
H: I think there is a lot of truth to that. In fact, one of the things we did in our office with
our scholarships is that we made the majority of our scholarships need based,
which means that we take financial need into [consideration] for all of our
students whether we have a minority or not. Because the donors have given
[scholarships] to us to increase minority representation in media, we do have
minority scholarships. These minority scholarships are still need based, which
means that if a black student (or white student) comes from a family making
$75,000 or more, then in this college, very rarely will they get a scholarship from
us. Most of ours are need based. What we did try to do was set up some merit
based scholarships. I think only about 10 percent are merit based, but the rest
are need based. We have sort of taken that step with all of our scholarships in
that we do take into consideration financial need. I do agree with that and I base
that on some readings that I have done of three columnists that I read quite a bit.
One is Bill Maxwell because of his insight in the local area; William Raspberry,
who I respect tremendously; and this fellow Ken Hamblin, who is a very radical,
black conservative with the Denver Post. [He] is a very radical, black
conservative. From time to time, I do read his articles because I do find a lot of
truth in what he says. Pretty much all three, if you look, will agree that financial
need needs to be more of a consideration than race for a lot of things. For
example, with what we are doing here in the college, we found that did not really
impact those students that we were rewarding to begin with because regardless
of race, we were still looking at income and still helping the same students. Let
us say a black student who comes from a family making $75,000, whose mother
and father have gone to college--should that student get a scholarship over any
other applicant? I would say no. I think that student should be judged on the
same merit as applicants with the same background, as far as income and
parental education. That usually is indication of the family income--the amount of
education the parents have. I think that black applicant should be looked at just
as everyone else is.
A: Where do you think this current discussion and debate about Affirmative Action is
H: I do not know. My concern comes from the fact that not all the facts are out, so
people are making decisions upon emotional issues rather than looking at the
facts. I am disturbed that Phil Gramm (I believe) opened it up as part of his
platform for his presidential bid. I do not like to see it used in that text because I
think it is too important to be a political football to be passed around and
considered a topic for someone to run against. I think Mr. Gramm has come out
and said that he is against it. A blanket statement like that is very dangerous. I
do feel one thing. I think that if for any reasons that we as a society do not
encourage diversity, we are going to find ourselves a country of the haves and
have nots at a greater degree than we are now. The haves are going to have to
live with guarded door and be afraid to go out in the streets because the have
nots are going to want it. We do not want to create that system. I really do not
think that we want to reach that point. It almost reminds me of the feudal system,
when the kings and the lords lived in a castle, and the peasants lived over here.
I do not think we want to go back to that. I think we want to create a system
where opportunity is available to everyone where everyone has a chance to get
involved in the mainstream and make the country more productive. I really do
not like the rhetoric going on about Affirmative Action. I do feel that it is okay to
have a review of what is going on. I do not think that we should ever be afraid of
reviewing any program activities. If your program is sound, and it is reviewed, it
will come out still being sound. I do not feel that there is not a need for a review
because there are perhaps some quota programs that need to be done away
with, reorganized, or relooked. I do not feel there is a problem with review, but
again I think there is a problem with blanket statements saying it is wrong. We
need to go away from that and using it as a political ploy, and not really taking a
look at the people that are going to be affected, or how it is going to impact the
country ten or twenty years from now when 80 percent of the population is going
to be women and minorities. It is going to happen whether we want it to or not. I
do feel that there is a need to review programs like quota programs. I do not
think we need to step back from our efforts to make sure that we provide
opportunity for everyone.
A: In your estimation (you have already begun to answer this), what is going to happen
if Affirmative Action ceases to be because of the efforts of Phil Gramm and some
of the others?
H: I think that initially, it is going to bring back groups like BAM, socialist parties, and
groups that we talked about earlier because organizations like that are their
strongest when there is a crisis to rally around. I think it could cause more
polarization of attitudes among people. It depends on how it is handled [[end of
H: It could cause polarization of peoples attitudes toward each other, toward where we
are going as a society, and where we are going as a country. I also guess it is
important as to how it is handled. For example, if it is handle the way it is now,
as a political football [[please finish thought]]. Many of the other Republican
candidates are jumping on the bandwagon because they see it as something
popular. I do not think that is the way to go about it. If Gramm and others would
have come and said, "As president, I think it is important for us to review
Affirmative Action and to say is this right or wrong as a society?" That statement,
to me, would carry a lot more weight and hope for the future, than the statement,
"I am totally against it," without hearing the arguments pro and con. Maybe Phil
feels he has heard all the arguments pro and con, so he can make a statement
like that. I think a statement like that tends to polarize people and make people
rally around different areas and say, "Oh yes, I am for him because I lost my job
because of this program." I do not think that is the mental attitude we want to
create in people. We want people to think positive about themselves. We want
everyone to feel that each of us is important,each of us has a place in society,
and that each of us can achieve if given the right motivation and resources. I
think that is true of everyone regardless of race. When you come in and say no,
no, no, that it creates a bad feeling among people. It starts pitting an us against
them attitude. It really divides the country. I do not think that is what we want to
do. I do not think that is where the U.S. needs to be now, ten years from now, or
twenty years from now. That is not where we need to be. We do not need to be
a divided country because we cannot get along. We need a country working
A: Is this something that you discuss with students coming through your office?
H: Students, people that interview me for stories, or anything else.
A: This is the time to talk about it.
H: In fact, a lot of students [take] JOU 3101 and MMC 2100 [which] are two beginning
writing courses in the college. [They] oftentimes have to interview people. I tell
them I have plenty to say, so I am willing to say it. Those are my personal
thoughts on it, but those are the ones I strongly believe in. I think again, if we are
going to survive as a country, we need to work together. It is not going to work
with all of us being divisive, polarized, and just looking out for number one. That
is not going to work. That is not how the country got the way it was to begin with.
A: Is it something that your minority students express concern over themselves? Are
the black and other minority students who come into your office worried about the
elimination of the programs? Do they talk about the politics of it at all with you?
H: Some students do, but not many. I think there are many students who still do not
understand the full implications. It sort of reminds me now of what is happening
with financial aid. A lot of students complain about financial aid and the fact that
there are now more loans, college work study, and grants being cut back. A lot
of this was created when Reagan was president. His policies were voted on,
approved, and passed a long time ago. In fact, before you came in earlier a
student was in, a student that we gave a scholarship to. He may not be able to
accept it because the Financial Aid Office has a policy of 50 percent grants and
what they call free money, and 50 percent loans and work study, self help
money. So even when we try to give a scholarship to students so they do not
have these loans, so they can concentrate on these studies and will not owe
more for their college education than they do for their first car or house, financial
aid still insists on the 50 percent policy. A lot of this has to do with things or
changes that were created by the federal government. Now students are
complaining. I am telling them you were hearing about these things a long time
ago. This is the impact. Now you are feeling the impact. I do not think again
with Affirmative Action and programs like that, that many students have thought
about it or taken the time to think about it as critically as maybe they should.
There is one group of students, students from the Caribbean, who have
traditionally been students that work very hard in the classroom. I think part of
the reason for that is that many of them are just one generation removed from
their homeland. For example, as many people are aware right now, Haiti is the
poorest country in the western hemisphere. When Haitian students get here and
have a chance, they say, "I am going to get money to go to school? All I have to
do is go to school?" To them it is like the greatest reward they could ever find
because here is an opportunity to better yourself at no cost or minimal financial
cost to you. Students in the U.S., I think have become a little bit more low in that
they just take things for granted. Using that same example, remember that I
mentioned to you the students that come back and visit the students that were in
the University before our program started, graduated, and saw how our programs
were able to make a difference? Those students appreciate the resources,
advice, and support that we have given them that made a difference in their life
because they saw the before and after, where a lot of the students now just see
the after. It is assumed that these programs have always been in place, and that
these programs are going to be there to help them. They do not take advantage
of the resources, as a percentage, as much as the students when we first started
the program. Getting back to that, I compare that to students from the
Caribbean. When they come to the United States and get a chance to go to
school, they take advantage of it because they know what it is like back home
where they do not have a chance to go to school because of class differences or
simply because the government does not pay for people with low incomes. Only
the rich go to school. They see that as an advantage and they come here and
take advantage of it. They work hard and do well in school. They see that as a
key to betterment of themselves.
A: You mentioned before we started the interview today that there is a new project you
are going to be working on.
H: As of this morning, our dean made an official announcement in that our current
scholarship and placement director has decided to go one-fourth time. Because
of that, the dean looked at the structure of our office. My Minority Programs
Office is a part of the Scholarship and Placement Center. They looked at the
work that I have done, the things that we have discussed, the projects I have told
her that I would like to accomplish, and the things I have seen that we could do a
better job [of]. Not that we are not doing a good job now, but there is always
room for improvement. Because of that, I have been appointed as director of the
Knight Scholarship and Placement Center. We are going to rename the office
the Scholarship Placement and Multicultural Affairs Center, and take away the
minority name because minority for a lot of people had a negative connotation.
So we are going to change the name to multicultural to reflect trying to work with
all cultures and not just a minority group of students. So that is effective today. I
have been appointed as the director of the Scholarship Placement and
Multicultural Affairs Center for the College of Journalism.
H: Thank you.
A: I guess there is one last thing I want to ask you. I think in a way you have already
answered it. Do you see yourself as a role model?
H: Yes I do. I see myself as a role model but I sort of take the Charles Barkley
approach to that, in that although I am a role model, the best role models are
parents. I think those are the people that students should look up to, and try to
strive to be [like]. I know that there are students that have told me that I am their
role model. I want to be a role model in that I want to try to encourage students,
as we talked earlier. I think the most important way you can make a change in a
life is to not always be the leader or the drum major, but in your own little way,
take time to help out by doing the little things, taking time to work with kids in an
after school program one Saturday a month, volunteering for boys and girls
clubs, or whatever, but returning something to the community. I think by doing
that we can make a difference. We will make a bigger difference in the world
than trying to lead a group against Tigert Hall or anything like that. Trying to
make a difference in our own communities is I think going to be the most
important thing for us. I am uncomfortable when students call me mister
because I see myself not that far removed. Although now it is getting on twenty
years, so I think I need to break that link there. Role model is a real strong term,
but I do appreciate those students who do see me as a role model. Again, I try to
lead by example and by what I do to help them. When they come in, it is not why
are you having a problem, it is what can I do to help. For most of them, if there
was not a problem, they would not be in there. I like to be a strong advocate for
students. I do not feel that we need to retreat from Affirmative Action programs.
I think that the future is bright for the U.S. I think that we have a lot of people in
the U.S. that really do understand the importance of what we are trying to do in
the name of diversity. I still think there are a lot of people that really do not
understand what diversity is all about, and see it as a personal attack when really
that is not what it is about. It is just about trying to get everyone involved rather
than leaving anybody out.
A: Thanks a lot for helping us out.
H: Thank you.