CUNY Digital History Archive

CUNY Digital History Archive

A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York — A work in progress
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SEEK's Fight for Racial and Social Justice (1965-1969)

In September 1965, City College (CCNY) launched its Pre-Baccalaureate (Pre-Bac) program, an experimental initiative designed to help desegregate the college’s student population and better integrate residents from the surrounding black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods into the school. Accepting students who otherwise did not meet the school’s admission criteria, in its initial year the program provided 113 students with academic support that included, but was not limited to, a remedial program designed to prepare them for their undergraduate careers. Vitally, officials at CCNY granted professors Leslie Berger and Allen Ballard the freedom to craft a program that encouraged experimentation, challenges, and support between instructors and students.

The success of CCNY’s program proved undeniable. By the next year, CUNY officials introduced “Operation SEEK”­­—short for “Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge”—a university-wide program that opened several campuses to high school graduates from disadvantaged city neighborhoods. As the earlier CCNY effort had already shown, SEEK also demonstrated the potential of students who previously had not been given the opportunity to study at four-year colleges. Moreover, the program­ offered an effective model for collegiate racial and social justice programs nationwide. Today, more than fifty years later, the SEEK program continues its serve its founding mission of providing well rounded support to those from underserved communities.

This collection, curated by Sean Molloy, an English professor at William Paterson University, offers an assortment of items­—including speeches, meeting minutes, and reports—from the earliest years of SEEK. It also includes several oral history interviews with instructors and students that were conducted by Molloy. Together, the items provide key insights into a program that helped pave the way for Open Admissions in the 1970s.

Much of this collection, including an extended introductory essay found here, were drawn from Molloy’s 2016 CUNY doctoral dissertation: "A Convenient Myopia: SEEK, Shaughnessy, and the rise of high stakes testing at CUNY."    

Minutes from 4/8/1965 CCNY Faculty Council Meeting

In these notes from a liberal arts and sciences faculty council meeting at City College, CCNY President Gallagher describes a tentative plan to admit 100 “disadvantaged” students into an experimental program in fall 1965. After discussion, the [...]

Minutes of April 1965 CCNY "Special Committee"

One week after CCNY President Buell Gallagher obtained faculty approval for its creation, he sat in on this “Special Committee” meeting chaired by Bernard Levy to begin to plan a new racial and social justice admissions and support program that [...]

Letter from Samuel B. Gould to John H. Hughes

In this letter to New York State Senator Hughes, SUNY Chancellor Gould describes the new SUNY SEEK Program. Gould had shown copies to CUNY’s Chancellor Bowker and Julius Edelstein, CUNY’s “Coordinator of Urban Studies,” who had forwarded the [...]

1967 - 1968 Annual Report of the SEEK Program

This is a CUNY-wide report for the SEEK program during the 1967-68 academic year. Included in the document is a cover letter from SEEK director Leslie Berger to CUNY Chancellor Albert Bowker, a table of contents, a list of SEEK administrators, and [...]

A New Role for Psychology: Working with Disadvantaged Persons in a College Setting

In this 10-page "position paper," Berger describes and offers a theoretical rationale for the central role of psychological counselors within SEEK. A handwritten note adds an additional source on page 10. Short for "Search for [...]

To Help Them Achieve: The Academic Talent Search Project 1966-68, Part II

In the Fall of 1964, (armed with a Rockefeller Foundation grant) Brooklyn College’s School of General Studies launched a 42 student pilot program using Bowker’s model, which it called the “Academic Talent Search Project” or “ATSP.” The [...]

The Pre Baccalaureate Program at the College

In this December 1966 City College Alumnus article, Leslie Berger publicly describes and advocates for the City College SEEK model and challenges all traditional college admissions criteria as incompetent measures of student potential. Short [...]

Statement of Professor John A. Davis

In this 1965 statement Professor John A. Davis demands that his colleagues at City College take action to increase minority representation at the school. He writes that two years had “passed since various units of City College have been [...]

Educational Opportunity Programs: Are They Academically Justifiable?

In this 22-page, July 1969 Milwaukee speech to the first annual conference on educational opportunity programs in higher education, Leslie Berger--director of CUNY's SEEK program--describes the birth and rapid growth of SEEK from 1965 to 1969; [...]

Anthony Penale as a Young Man

Anthony Penale was a City College lecturer and writing teacher in 1965 when he was appointed by English Chair Edmund Volpe as the first SEEK English coordinator/director. Penale became ill in the summer of 1967 and Volpe then appointed Mina [...]

"Pre-Baccalaureate Program Student Statistics -- Fall Term 1965"

This early summary of the first semester of SEEK (then known as the Pre-Baccalaureate Program) details the courses, schedules and teachers for the 113 SEEK students in Fall 1965 at CCNY. These first SEEK students took a mix of mainstream and special [...]

"Will Everyman Destroy the University?"

In this article, CUNY’s new Vice Chancellor Timothy Healy writes of SEEK as both a practical and theoretical model for open admissions. He cites the success of the program--intended to improve higher education access for the underserved--as proof [...]

"The Faculty Council Interim Report of the Committee on Enrollment Policy"

This April 1964 report shows the deep conflicts within the CCNY faculty with regards to expanding access to new students. Complaining about limited facilities and student unreadiness, the faculty committee resisted both loosening admissions [...]

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SEEK's Fight for Racial and Social Justice (1965-1969)