Petition for Charter Change
After the racially-motivated tragedies of World War II and the growing pressures of Communism and the Cold War, the United States federal government gradually began to view segregation as an embarrassment. These perceptions would greatly influence Southern private higher education, where schools like Rice greatly depended and relied on federal grants to support their STEM education. The federal government and many national foundations began to make desegregation a strict requirement for the reception of their funds. Many Southern private schools like Rice were racially segregated and racially discriminated against Black people. In Rice’s specific case, its charter prohibited it from accepting Black students and charging tuition. The university found itself in a bind when both the federal government and national foundations became reluctant to provide necessary funding and resources for Rice’s premiere STEM education. Rice’s petition for a charter change would pierce directly into the issue of racial segregation in higher education:
“This suit…went right to the heart of the changes in southern higher education since World War II….Rice’s lawsuit…revolved around the question of whether institutionalized racial discrimination destroyed the school’s ability to advance, or even sustain itself at its current level of quality and prestige” (10).
The Rice administration and board of trustees was generally apathetic and unwilling to act towards desegregation. They felt that, as leaders of upholding white Southern traditions, they were the only ones with the right to control the direction in which their school went. When outside pressure to change the world they knew and the school they owned came like a vengeance, they at first put up a fight but then later yielded to the people who provided the money--the life-blood of the school: “It was the threat of immediate negative consequences that elicited a rather sudden change of heart among previously stalwart defenders of [white] southern tradition” (11). One should not think that the Rice administrators and trustees voluntarily and readily decided to integrate the school. They were pressed from all sides and threatened with the ruination of their institution before they decided to 1) charge tuition then 2) accept black students. Additionally, “The notion that these schools voluntarily desegregated is intimately tied to the concepts of control and authority that guided their actions during the decades after World War II” (12).