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ERIC Number: ED561590
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 313
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3034-1565-4
The Limits to Catholic Racial Liberalism: The Villanova Encounter with Race, 1940-1985
Mogan, Thomas
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Temple University
This dissertation examines the process of desegregation on the campus of a Catholic university in the North. Focusing on Villanova University during the period from 1940-1985, the narrative explores the tension between the University's public commitment to desegregation and the difficulties of implementing integration on a predominately white campus. Through oral histories, newspaper accounts (especially the student newspaper), University committee meeting minutes, administrators' personal correspondence, and other internal documents, I examine how Villanova students and administrators thought about and experienced desegregation differently according to their race. In examining the process of desegregation, this dissertation makes two arguments. The first argument concerns the rise and fall of Catholic racial liberalism. In early post-World War II era, Catholic racial liberalism at Villanova was consolidated when the philosophy of Catholic interracialism combined with the emerging postwar racial liberalism. This ideology promoted the ideals of an equitable society where everyone had equal rights but it did so with a specific appeal to Christian morality. Catholic racial liberalism held that segregation, let alone racism and discrimination, was a sin. Therefore, Catholic racial liberals possessed an unshakeable faith in the ideal of integration. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Villanova adhered to the ideal of integration as the number of African American students increased. Indeed, a consensus of Catholic racial liberalism prevailed on campus. As the civil rights movement began to demand more of white Americans throughout the 1960s, the consensus of Catholic racial liberalism began to weaken as white Villanovans expressed racial anxieties. In the late 1960s, when black Villanova students adopted a position of Black Power and threatened to change the campus culture, the orthodoxy of Catholic racial liberalism was shattered. At Villanova, the 1970s were marked by the struggle to increase minority enrollment. These efforts represented a last desperate attempt by racial liberals to keep alive the civil rights movement's promise of integration. Finally, during the 1980s, as affirmative action programs based on race in higher education came under fire, Catholic racial liberalism was replaced by the ideology of diversity. Therefore, I argue that the rise and fall of Catholic racial liberalism on Villanova's campus demonstrated both the possibilities and the limits to this philosophy. Second, I argue that, despite Villanova's adoption of Catholic racial liberalism, meaningful integration proved elusive. The administration's inconsistent efforts to recruit and to include African American students on campus demonstrated that they were unwilling to transform the campus culture to further the goals of the black freedom movement. Indeed, most white Villanovans, students and administrators, expected African Americans to simply be grateful for the chance to be at Villanova. This, of course, left black students on a campus that was desegregated but integrated in only the thinnest and least meaningful sense of the word. Integration is more than the absence of segregation, yet throughout the period of this study most black Villanova students continued to feel the sting of segregation on campus. In place of integration, Villanova University adopted a paradigm of "acceptance without inclusion" with regard to African American students on campus. In tracing the limits to Catholic racial liberalism and the failure of integration, this research highlights the experiences of historical actors who have not appeared in the previous studies of Catholic higher education--black students. The investigation of the experiences of African American Villanova students reveals a story about race and Catholic higher education that moves the focus away from abstract commitments to racial equality and places it on the men and women who experienced the disparity between public pronouncements and day-to-day practice. To be sure, black Villanova students were not simply pawns in the social drama of desegregation. As such, the narrative examines how black Villanova students, by their presence and their activism, challenged the racial status quo and how white Villanova students and administrators responded to these challenges. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania