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Wisdom Seen In Decision of Trustees

Editorial, reprinted from the Greenville News, published in Furman Magazine, v. 12 (no. 3), Autumn 1963. The author explains the wisdom in the Furman University Board of Trustees' adoption of a new policy allowing admission to all qualified students, regardless of race, and explains why it is wise for Southern Baptists, and other church-related colleges to support this decision.

Wisdom Seen In Decision of Trustees -- (Editorial reprinted from the Greenville News) -- The adoption by the Furman University Board of Trustees of a policy whereby the administration will be authorized and directed to "consider applications from all qualified students" mav have been reluctant and it may cause regret among many citizens. But it was a smart move from at least two important practical standpoints to prepare to meet a situation that is almost inevitable. The policy, of course, means that Furman will consider applications from Negro students. It can accept them if they are qualified in every respect and if the administration and trustees feel they can fit into the student body in a way beneficial to them and not detrimental to the University's educational mission. By acting when and as it did, the Board placed itself in position to receive applications, to screen the applicants, to reject or accept them and to assign them to courses and classes entirely within its discretion and that of the administration. It did not act under any pressure or compulsion, but simply on the basis of right and wrong as it sees it. Therefore, it can expect to be free of pressure or coercion from any source when and if Negro students apply, a development that could be anticipated as surely as any part of the future can be foreseen. In short, it has sought to avoid difficulty over the race issue by rendering it moot. Through their action, the Trustees have lived up to the responsibility conferred on them by the South Carolina Baptist Convention to operate Furman to the best of their wisdom and ability and in the best interests of education generally and for the training of religious leaders. The question of the admission of Negroes was bound to come up in the Convention sooner or later. The Board, acting within the scope of its authority and in keeping with various pronouncements of assemblages of Baptist leaders in this and other states and in the Southern Baptist Convention, has settled that question. However, coincidences have given rise to unfortunate speculative rumors and some misunderstandings which unfairly have placed the Board in something of an awkward position. But, fortunately, outsiders who are familiar with Furman and its recent history can quickly clear up those. For instance, there was no pressure, not even a suggestion, from outside sources of large amounts of Furman's financial support involved in the Board's decision. We have known Furman's Trustees and administrative officials well enough and have observed their activities long enough to know that they would not accept gifts with detrimental strings attached. They are answerable only to their consciences, to the public and the students they serve and to the Convention which elects them. And there was no connection between the resignation of two Trustees and the action taken last Tuesday. Dr. John A. Hamrick of Charleston and Clifton Jones of Summerville submitted their resignations in writing some months ago. They were formally accepted Tuesday. Their reason is that they are also members of the present Board of Trustees of the proposed Baptist College of Lower South Carolina at Charleston. They can now devote more time to this project without violating the rule against any one person's serving on two institutional boards of the Convention. Misunderstanding has arisen in Charleston as to Furman's relationship to the proposed lower state college. Actually, there isn't and never has been any direct connection. By action of the Convention, Furman was given the option, subject to final approval presumably, of operating the other college as a branch or part of a University system. This would have offered an advantage in that, at the time, association with Furman would have assured the school of immediate accreditation. But the rules of the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities have since been changed to require that a branch must earn accreditation on its own. Inasmuch as this advantage melted away and the lower state trustees felt they could fare better independently than as a branch of Furman, it was agreed last April that the University would not exercise its option. This leaves the fate of the lower state college up to the State Convention, which has stipulated that it will support the institution on the same basis as Furman and the other Baptist schools if and when it has acquired a site and raised $500,000 to get started. The proposed institution has the site, but it is some $155,000 short of the half million dollars. Furman, however, has pledged its cooperation and support. Meanwhile, Furman's action is neither a victory for integrationist sentiment nor a defeat for sincere segregationists. The Trustees have placed themselves in the position in which Methodist Colleges were left by their Conference this spring --"that of exercising their own discretion. They are where Wake Forest was placed last year in North Carolina. In none of these instances is immediate change likely--"nor drastic change over a long period. Furman's entrance requirements and academic standards are high. Anyone who can meet them will have earned his place in the student body. There is no room in the arrangement for the practice of racism in any direction or form.