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"A three-pronged experimental approach to the problem of undiscovered college potential among the young men and women of New York City"

This memorandum from Chancellor Bowker’s office called for three new forms of CUNY desegregation programs (pp. 1-2). This “three-pronged experiment” would be excused from CUNY’s general obligation to admit only students with the highest grades and test scores. Its goal would be “to find out enough about the methods of selection and education of culturally disadvantaged persons of high native ability (‘potential’) to enable us to formulate policies which will place the admission to college of such students upon a firm non-discriminatory basis” (p. 2). The memo added that CUNY hoped “also to learn a great deal about the teaching of students in general” (p. 2).

The third prong of the Chancellor’s office’s proposal called on senior colleges to host a “College Potentiality Search” from within their Schools of General Studies, using an elaborate, multi-tiered, application process to provisionally admit groups of students into their schools of general studies as “Pre-Matriculants.” These desegregation programs would teach on a “highly individualized and closely supervised basis” (p. 7). The Chancellor’s office assumed these new students would be underprepared and would struggle to succeed. They would be assigned to zero-credit remedial courses or a mix of remedial and credit bearing courses “until [they] clearly demonstrate a capacity to pursue college-level work” (p.7). Group and individual tutorials would “discover weaknesses and gaps in their educational backgrounds” and raise student performance “to an acceptable collegiate level.”

Students would not be treated “as a group” but “as persons, to be judged on their individual records” (p.7). Although retention policies would not be altered in “mistaken generosity” to help any student who “shows himself incapable of completing college level work satisfactorily,” the goal was “for these students to be integrated into the courses and life of the College….by hard work (both on the part of the student and teacher) to a level where they will not suffer new agonies of falling “below par” (p. 7). Students would receive special “counseling and supportive services,” including faculty counseling, “psychological counseling [and] social work” (p. 7). The Chancellor’s office called for a 50-student program to begin in the fall of 1964 and suggested Brooklyn College as its location (p. 6).

Source | Berger Family Archives
Creator | Office of CUNY Chancellor Albert Bowker
Date Created | February 7, 1964
Rights | Public Domain.
Item Type | Text (Report / Paper / Proposal)
Cite This document | Office of CUNY Chancellor Albert Bowker, “"A three-pronged experimental approach to the problem of undiscovered college potential among the young men and women of New York City",” CUNY Digital History Archive, accessed November 30, 2023,

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