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Message to campus about DuBois letter

Oct. 13, 2020

Dear members of the University of Dayton community,

In June of this year, the University committed to action steps toward becoming an anti-racist university full of equitable opportunity for all. Today, we are writing with deep sadness to share an artifact from 1930, clear evidence of systemic racism at UD, in this particular example through past discriminatory admissions policies and practices.

While UD's first African American graduate appears to have attended regular classes in the early 1920s, this evidence indicates that many African American students were denied equal opportunity in at least the 1920s and 1930s because of their race. 

W.E.B. Du Bois, the great civil rights leader, scholar, and author, asked for information on African American enrollment for an article he was writing for The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP. The response from UD's Office of the President acknowledged that African Americans were not admitted into day classes "...because of the considerable number of students we have from southern states." The letter goes on to indicate that African Americans were admitted to law classes and evening classes "...which are almost wholly composed of Dayton people." 

This demonstrates that the University allowed Jim Crow segregation to extend to our campus, and is concrete evidence of the kinds of systemic racism that denied opportunity to generations of people because of the color of their skin. The University was wrong to engage in this practice. We express our deep remorse and apologize as president and rector on behalf of the University. 

While there have been times in our history when we have taken a stand for equity and inclusion, including some of our Marianist religious in the 1960’s, an important part of becoming the university to which we aspire is to make visible forgotten aspects of our history — including those parts of which we are ashamed. Uncovering and acknowledging what has been forgotten is essential to understanding the forces and decisions that shaped the University we know today. Facing our past is a prerequisite to moving forward in an anti-racist manner.

We encourage everyone to read the article co-authored by Heidi Gauder, professor and coordinator of research and instruction for University libraries, and Caroline Waldron, associate professor of history. Please also view this video, which explores the letter and the impact of systemic racism. 

As a Catholic, Marianist university, we believe every person has innate dignity because all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Let us come together as a campus community, humbled by our history, to continue to work for justice and human rights and improve the diversity, equity and inclusivity of UD. 

May God's grace be with all of us on this challenging journey.

Eric F. Spina

Father James Fitz, S.M.
Vice President for Mission and Rector


News and Communications Staff