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." This collection is possible only due to invaluable support of Allen B. Ballard, Francee Covington, Eugenia Wiltshire, Marvina White, Noelle Berger, Nicole Futterman, Adam Penale, Sydney Van Nort, and the City College Archives & Special Collections.
8 Featured Items:
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 [...]
In this oral history interview, Janet Mayes, a City College SEEK writing teacher reflects on her experiences with the program. Mayes joined CCNY in the spring of 1967, making her one of the seven original SEEK writing lecturers. She co-taught a SEEK [...]
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 [...]
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; [...]
In September of 1965, City College launched SEEK, a desegregation and supportive teaching program that quickly became the direct model for new Equal Opportunity Programs at dozens of New York colleges. Here SEEK founder Allen Ballard remembers the [...]
In 1966, Francee Covington entered City College as one the first class of SEEK students. Here, Francee remembers growing up in Brooklyn, her years as a City College student and her student journalism work on The Paper. Short for "Search for [...]
In this interview, Marvina White recounts growing up on Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan and entering City College as part of the first class of SEEK students in 1966. White also analyzes how SEEK-- especially SEEK teachers and counsellors Barbara [...]
In this oral history interview, Eugenia Wiltshire (nee Dorothy Robinson) recalls her time attending City College in 1966-70 as one of CUNY's first SEEK students. Short for "Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge," SEEK was [...]