University of Rochester

History of Diversity at UR

Note: This brief historical summary is a distillation of events and recommendations, beginning with the most recent reports on Diversity and leading back through our history. For more details and information on these events please refer to the full reports linked below. Photographs, letters, and newspaper articles (unless otherwise noted) are courtesy of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections University of Rochester Library.

Program Cover

2010, April 5
First Annual Diversity Conference: Building a Stronger Community


2010, January
First Presidential Diversity Award Recipients Announced Latino Professional Alliance, David T. Kearns Center, and Dr. John Hansen named inaugural winners for their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

2009, December
Report Assesses Faculty Diversity Initiative President Joel Seligman today released a report assessing the University’s progress in strengthening faculty diversity and inclusiveness since the creation of the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity in January 2007. The report is based on in-depth interviews conducted by former Deputy to the President and Vice Provost Lynne Davidson, University Intercessor Frederick Jefferson, and Senior Associate Provost Carol Shuherk with 94 faculty members in all schools and three town hall meetings. It details 14 recommendations to improve faculty retention and recruitment. “All of us are fully committed to the objective of achieving a campus that is diverse and inclusive, where all members of our community feel welcomed and supported, and where a commitment to diversity and academic excellence progress hand-in-hand,” says President Seligman. (Posted December 1, 2009)

2009, October
Vivian Lewis to Lead University’s Diversity Efforts Beginning Oct. 1 and for the balance of the academic year, Vivian Lewis will serve as acting deputy to the president and acting vice provost for faculty development and diversity. Lynne Davidson will step down from the post Oct. 1. President Seligman thanked Davidson for the “magnificent job” she has done, saying “she has been pivotal in chairing our 2006 Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness and in implementing its 31 recommendations. I look forward to Vivian’s contributions to further strengthen diversity initiatives at the University.”

2009, July
The University's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has launched the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle Oral History Project. The library has recorded and will soon make available online interviews with more than 20 key players from Rochester's fight against racial discrimination during the 1960s and 1970s.

2009, May
President Seligman issues the Third Annual Report on Diversity
In his third annual diversity report, President Seligman says the University is making "continued progress" in efforts to be a more diverse and welcoming community. "Our task as a University is to welcome all to join our community based on their talents. This task is not a simple one and there will be setbacks and challenges along the way. But I am convinced that progress in achieving greater diversity is vital to our success as a great research University," Seligman says.

2008, May
President Seligman issues the Second Annual Report on Diversity
The 2007–2008 academic year saw small, but measurable progress in the University of Rochester’s efforts to be a more diverse and welcoming community. While I am pleased with the progress so far, we still have far to go. To accelerate these efforts, I have asked Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Lynne Davidson to work full time on diversity and inclusiveness issues beginning July 1, 2008.

2007, June
President Seligman issues the first Annual Report on Diversity
I am delighted to provide the University of Rochester community the First Annual Report on Diversity. During the 2006-07 academic year, the University of Rochester began a new faculty diversity initiative and continued to make progress on an existing staff diversity program and various school-based efforts to increase the diversity of our student population. Because the faculty effort is the newest element of the University’s overall diversity and inclusion program, this report focuses primarily on that component.

2006, October 17
President Seligman's response to the 2006 Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness Report

2006, October 10
Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness Report

2006, February
President Seligman's Presentation to the Faculty Senate ,the Announcement of Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness, and the Charge of the Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness

Statement of Educational Philosophy
In 2005, responding to two Supreme Court decisions in cases involving the University of Michigan, the UR created and the Board of Trustees approved a Statement of Educational Philosophy that affirms the need for a diverse student body, faculty, and staff at the University of Rochester.

PAS 50+ Initiative
The Office of Human Resources began the PAS 50 + Initiative, which focuses on recruitment and retention of minorities to fill professional, administrative, and supervisory roles in positions of pay grade 50 and higher.

College Diversity Roundtable Submitted Recommendations Addressing Acts of Intolerance

2002, February 26
Comments from President Jackson and Provost Phelps on Incidents of Graffiti and Vandalism

2001, October 8
President's Memorandum on Senior Staff Diversity

Founding of the College Diversity Roundtable (CDR)
The College Diversity Roundtable (CDR) Committee, appointed by the Dean of the College, is charged with establishing an educational forum/exchange by which diversity (in all its complexity and multifaceted dimensions) can be supported and affirmed. The CDR is structured as a student-centered task force where campus climate and quality of life issues and/or concerns can be voiced, heard and acted upon, especially those affected racial, ethnic, and cultural groups on campus. Moreover, the Diversity Roundtable can also serve as a focal point for diversity discussions, initiatives and best practices within The College. The Roundtable Committee consists of faculty, staff, and students.

1999, November 16
Provost's Memorandum on Diversity in Faculty Recruiting

1999, November 3
President's Memorandum on Senior Staff Diversity

1999, August 30
"Jackson Issues Staff Diversity Directives" (Currents)

1999, August 2
"University Starts Diversity Initiatives" (Currents)

"The Safe Zone Campaign" A University-wide program (developed by undergraduate students) intended to provide support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and allies.

Response to the Residential College Commission Sub-Committee on Diversity Report

1999, March
The Residential College Commission Sub-Committee on Diversity (RCCD) reported on the state of diversity, particularly in the College, and made fifteen recommendations on topics regarding diversity both within the College and University-wide. Of the fifteen recommendations, eight have been implemented, including the creation of a mission statement on diversity, the revitalization of the Frederick Douglass Institute, and the implementation of diversity programming in orientation and residential life.

1999, March 18
"After Sit-In, U. Rochester Agrees to Recruit More Minorities"

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A four-hour sit-in here by about 200 University of Rochester students resulted in an agreement with administrators to seek more minority students.

Of 4,262 full-time undergraduates, there are 249 African American and 190 Latino students, making up about 5 and 4 percent, respectively.

After the sit-in outside the president's office, administrators agreed to a series of demands to improve the academic and cultural life of minority students, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The university agreed to spend more money, to try harder to recruit minority students and faculty, and to involve students more in school decisions.

Protesters say they staged the sit-in after several meetings with officials failed to bring the action they sought, reports WXXI Radio.

The agreement includes a commitment by the university to devise a diversity mission statement, hire a staff member to recruit minority students, and draft a plan to hire more diverse faculty and staff. (Black Issues in Higher Education)

Student Sit-in as Reported in the Rochester Review
"Finding Common Ground " (President's Page)

"Rochester in Review, Sit-in"

student sit in

Photo by Max Schulte
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"Students concerned over diversity issues on campus staged a peaceful sit-in outside the president's office in February. About 200 undergraduates participated in the four-hour demonstration, which ended when students and administration put on record their mutually agreed-upon aims about several issues, principal among which were recruitment of minority students and faculty and enhancement of academic and cultural life for minorities. "A lot of what the students are asking for was already under way," said Robert Kraus, associate vice president for public relations, adding that ongoing meetings on the subject would improve communications on continuing progress. The demonstration was the first of its kind since the mid-1980s." (Rochester Review)

1999, March 5
"U. of Rochester Officials Yield to Protesters" (Chronicle of Higher Education)

1999, February 22
A group of University of Rochester minority undergraduate students, many of them members of the Black Student Union, led a sit-in in the office of Thomas H. Jackson, the University’s ninth president. As a result of that peaceful protest, the University administration agreed to develop a mission statement on diversity, to permanently increase the recruitment of minority students in The College, to appoint students to the Dean’s Advisory Committee on University Programs in African and African American Studies and the Frederick Douglass Institute, to foster increased diversity in academic and cultural programming throughout the University, and to create a plan for the increased recruitment of minority faculty and staff. Some progress has been made in most of the identified areas; the University has seen very little progress, however, in the area of minority faculty recruitment. (RCCD)

The Eaves Report (Report of the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Report on Minority Issues.)
Proposed by President O’Brien and established by the Faculty Senate in 1990, this committee examined the issue of recruitment and retention of minority graduate students and faculty. The report urged the Faculty Senate, President and administration to develop “systematic oversight and clearly articulated effective incentives” to improve the recruitment and retention of minority faculty and graduate students. The report also urged the development of “mentoring systems” for untenured faculty and improved connections with the Rochester community.

"Towards the Future of Minority Student Affairs: A Discussion Paper"
The Directors of the Frederick Douglass Institute and the Office of Minority Student Affairs were the principal authors of this paper, which called for a greater integration of effort in all facets of the University in pursuing the goal of achieving a more diverse and welcoming community. The “Discussion Paper” posed the problem as follows: “There is an urgent need to enhance the cultural sensitivity of all students and to increase their sophistication about the diverse human world in which they will live out their lives. Consciously accommodating diversity should also be the business of faculty, administrators, staff members, and service persons – and of all administrative units. It should not be left to OMSA, the Frederick Douglass Institute, the International Student Office, and the Office of University and Community Affairs….The issues surrounding diversity and multicultural community are far too complex for any one office or set of offices alone.” (RCCD)


1987, November The College's Spanish and Latino Students' Association (S.A.L.S.A.) was formed in November of 1987 by Edward Chafart. He acted as president of the organization for the 1987-1988 academic year. That first year also marked the inception of annual Tropicana events. Find a brief history here.

The University established the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's studies and an undergraduate major and minor in women's studies was established.

The College's Student Association for Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinents (ADITI) was founded.

1985, March 15
University of Rochester Currents "Statement on Minority Relations at the University of Rochester."  (printable version) It includes a "Memorandum of Agreement", a "Memorandum on Minority Relations" from President O'Brien, a "Memorandum to President O'Brien from the African-American Education Oversight Commission,"and the "University's Affirmative Action Plan."  

1985, April 10
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 11, No.4 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Rodnell E. Claboine is the first black student elected as Student Association President.

“ Community Relations Committee Paper”
President Dennis O’Brien appointed a 17 member ;Community Relations Committee consisting of representatives of the black community, alumni, student groups, UR faculty, and administrators to consider the following: African American Studies; recruitment of minority faculty, staff and students; support services; security services; and student judicial procedures. One significant result from the work of this committee was the creation of the Frederick Douglass Institute. (RCCD)

1983, November 11
"A Statement from the Provost: Blacks and the University" (Currents)

1983, July 1
Black Students' Union and Pan-Afrikan Graduate Students' Association Special Report: An Assessment of the University of Rochester. Published by the BSU and PAGSA

1983, April 22
Positive Action Encouraged in Race Relations (Campus Times)

1983, April 15
Race Relations Surveyors Invite Debate (Campus Times)

1983, April 15
Students, Dean to Collaborate on Black Studies Program (Campus Times)

1983, April 13
Senate Approves Final Budget with Minor Change (Campus Times)

1983, April 4
Controversy Surrounds SAAC Final Budget (Campus Times)

1983, March 25
Students Comment on African-American Concerns (Campus Times)

1983, March 25
Black Student "Sought" by UR Security force (Campus Times)

1983, March 23
UR and Urban League Offer Scholarship (Campus Times)

1983, March 23
Racial Misunderstanding Persists at the UR (Campus Times)

1983, March 18
Provost Outlines Gains for Minorities at the UR (Campus Times)

1983, February 25
Segall Offers Support to Black Students' Union (Campus Times)


1983, February 18
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 1, No.1 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Special Edition Institutional Racism: Passing the Buck

1983, February 16
Students Analyze Racism on UR Campus (Campus Times)

1983, February 16
BSU Attacks SAAC Budgetary Decision (Campus Times)

1983, February 11
BSU Reacts Angrily to Cuts From Proposed Budget SAAC Funds One Third of BSU Request (Campus Times)

1983, February 11
Sproull Hears Complaints at BSU Meeting (Campus Times)

1983, February 4
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 10, No.13 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: University of Rochester's Revolving Door: Problems of the Minority Community Part III- As the Door Turns

1983, January 28
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 10, No.12 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: University of Rochester's Revolving Door: Problems of the Minority Community Part II- Landmarks

"The Gifford Report: Study on Race Relations at the University of Rochester"
Over 600 students participated in the study which surveyed pre-university interracial experiences, defensiveness, interracial interactions, prejudices and stereotyping, attitudes about racial groups, and attitudes about University policies and curriculum. The study concluded: “…minority and non-minority freshman students may need an initial period for adjusting to each other. We suggest that the University take steps to aid this adjustment. These steps could include promoting interracial interaction during freshman orientation and during the first weeks of classes….Resident advisors may be particularly useful for this purpose: we therefore recommend that they receive training in skills and techniques for promoting interracial interaction. Minority resident advisors may be particularly useful as role models for both minority and white students: we therefore recommend that their number be increased.” (Gifford Report, RCCD)

1982, December 3
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 10, No.10 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: The Provost Meets with te BSU.

Grapevine December 3, 1982

1982, April 23
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 9, No.25 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: University Attacks Attrition Amoung Minorities.

1982, January 21
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 10, No.11 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: University of Rochester's Revolving Door: Problems of the Minority Community Part I- The Open Door

The women's studies program officially opened.

1980, November 14
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 8, No.12 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: The Future of Black Education at the University of Rochester.

1980, October 31
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 8, No.10 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Kwame Ture, The Former Stokely Carmichael, Speaks at UR.

KASA Logo The College's Korean American Student's Association (KASA) was founded.

The University launched a concentration in women's studies.
Click herefor a brief history of the Susan B. Anthony Institute.

1979, October 26
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 7, No.8 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: The Assimilation of Latins at the U of R.

1979, March 30
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 6, No. 24 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Alumni Reunion a Success.

1979, February 23
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 6, No. 20 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Alumni Reunion: What it should mean to us.

Grapevine Front Page

1979, January 26
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 6, No. 16 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: BSU elects new Officers

1978, March 24
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 5, No. 23 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: MLK Memorial Celebration Held

1978, January 20
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 5, No. 15 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Marchers protest loans to South Africa

Provost O'Brien Initiatives
From 1979-1981, Provost Richard O’Brien championed the following initiatives: formed a Council For Minority Education; formed a Task Force on Affirmative Action; established closer working relationships with black students in the Black Students Union, as members of the Provost’s Undergraduate Council; worked with an Alumni Committee on Minority Enrollment which helped form a close relationship with the Urban League and led to the creation of twenty special scholarships for minority students; helped recruit an outstanding black alumnus, Bernard Gifford, as Vice President for Student Affairs. (RCCD Report)

1977, November 11
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 5, No. 9 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Parents Weekend

1977, September 23
The University's Department of Special Student Services produced
Volume 5, No. 3 of the "Grapevine"
Headline: Julian Bond delivered a lecture Sunday night at the U of R.

1975, October 17
The University's Educational Opportunity Program produced
Volume 3, No. 2 of the "Grapevine"

The Grapevine, a publication of the Office of Minority Student Affairs ,was first published "for the purpose of providing the minority community with a voice for their concerns."

Review of the Educational Opportunity Program The University administration undertook a systematic review of the EOP. A three-member committee consisting of President Sproull, Vice President Dowd and Associate Dean Goldberg headed the effort. In a progress report to the faculty senate in March, Goldberg emphasized appropriate criteria for admission and the merits of the pre-freshman summer program. In July, the administration hired a new EOP director, its fifth in five years. (RCCD Report)

Pride Network Logo The College's Gay Academic Union was originally founded. It later became the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Friends Association of the University of Rochester and is now known as the Pride Network.

1969, March 14
BSU Sit-in Informational Packet Sent to Alumni

  • A background statement issued to the members of the BSU by Provost Sproull on March 7
  • The text of the statement issued to the press by the BSU at the conclusion of the sit-in on March 10
  • The text of a statement issued to the Press by the University at the conclusion of the sit-in.

1969, March 11
Student Sit-in Over, Issues Stay Alive at UR

1969, March 11

campus times
BSU after takeover

(Campus Times)

Statements from the Office of Public Relations

March 10
Statement announcing that normal use of the third and fourth floors of the Frederick Douglass building is expected to being tomorrow (Tuesday) following the evacuation of those floors, which the Black Students Union has held since last Tuesday night. (March 4)
March 7
Statement regarding the sub-commitee (including 2 members of the BSU) that was created within the committee on Academic Policy
March 6
Statement regarding meetings with the Black Students Union

1969, March 4-11
Black Students Union Takeover
The Black Students Union led a six-day takeover of the third and fourth floors of the Frederick Douglass Building (the location of the former Faculty Club). Student demands included: hiring of a minority admissions recruiter, recruitment of a greater number of black students, providing black studies in the curriculum, improved services to the local black community, and improved opportunities for the University’s own black employees. (RCCD Report)

Educational Opportunity Program
The University established the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and admitted the first cohort of students of color who would receive targeted academic and social support services. These services and programs are administered today through the Office of Minority Student Affairs, HEOP. (RCCD Report)

1968, April 9
UR reacts to King's Assassination

Campus Times:

news article

1955, February 23
Dr. John Hope Franklin lectures on dissent/free speech at intellectual institutions

JH Franklin

Dr. John Hope Franklin visited the UR on February 23, 1955, and gave a lecture in Strong Memorial Hospital on dissent/free speech at intellectual institutions. The text of the lecture was reprinted, with Franklin's permission, in the Campus Times on February 25, 1955.

Kathrine Koller Photo

Dr. Kathrine Koller was appointed to the post of chairman of the English department, the first woman in the history of the College of Arts and Sciences to hold the chair of a major department.

Marianne Warren Fry

1945 Board of Trustees

Marianne Warren Fry was the first women to serve on the University's Board of Trustees. Mrs. Fry, who was on the Board until 1958, is shown in this 1945 group picture of the Trustees.

Beatrice Howard

Beatrice Amaza Howard was the first African-American woman to graduate from UR. "Beatrice Amaza Howard First Girl of Colored Race to Graduate at U of R."

1927 The first woman to receive a Ph.D. was M. Elizabeth Marsh, who recieved her doctoral degree in physiology of nutrition.

1925 The University awarded its first Ph.D to Warren Myron Sperry who received a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Annette Gardner Munro was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from the University of Rochester.

1906, March 13
Susan B. Anthony died.

Ella S. Wilcoxen Photo

Ella S. Wilcoxen was the first woman to obtain a degree—Ph.B.—at the U of R. She had attended Geneseo State Normal School; after graduation she became a high school teacher and a religious worker. (University of Rochester History by A. J. May)

1902, September 18
Note from Susan B. Anthony

Note from Susan B Anthony

"Today—I hope will see thirty or forty more than 68—pupils enter the Rochester University. May their numbers increase--until the daughters of the city shall be all thoroughly the hope of yours sincerely, Susan B. Anthony." (Written on the occasion of the third class of women entering the University in September, 1902)

Susan B. Anthony Photo

Susan B. Anthony convinced the University of Rochester’s Board of Trustees that the time had come to admit women into the student body. For more details about women's struggle for co-education please visit the fully searchable University of Rochester History by A. J. May .

The first Hispanic student is thought to have been Ivoe De Calesta, Class of 1902.

1895, February 20 Frederick Douglass died.

Henry Austin Spencer

The first African American, Henry Austin Spencer, was admitted into the freshman class.

1879, June 25
Letter from Frederick Douglass to Samuel Drummond Porter.
"Douglass thanks Porter for his letter in which Porter had described the presentation of Douglass's bust to the City of Rochester and speeches made by "eminent gentlemen" (notably Anderson). He expresses his feelings of honor and thanks to Porter and the "Committee". He speaks of the rise of himself and his race from such a low status in "the most powerful nation in the world", finishing with his feeling of attachment to the City of Rochester."

Simon Tuska, "... Stranger in the Synagogue is the first published work by a University of Rochester alumnus (published while he was still a student), and he conferred upon the University the distinction of being the first American university to give an alumnus to the rabbinate."

1852, July 5
Frederick Douglass "4th of July" Speech
Oration, Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, by Frederick Douglass

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Last modified: Tuesday, 20-Apr-2010 11:59:11 EDT