1950s - Part 3
Into the late 1950s, Rice “remained an oasis of calm in the troubled South….On campus, things were going well” (22). The humanities and social sciences departments established more graduate programs, thus increasing the amount of course offerings. (The school was still largely focused on STEM education.) The residential college system was finally instituted in 1957, improving the quality of students and providing connections with the often distant faculty members. In spite of these changes, the “Student life…remained difficult…[due to] a challenging curriculum combined with perhaps overly rigorous grading and professional indifference to keep students preoccupied with their studies” (23).
Close to the end of the decade, Rice began to feel the pressure concerning racial segregation and discrimination. Because of STEM education and the Rincon Oil Field purchase, Rice administrators and trustees had not previously felt the urge to hurry towards considering segregation and its effects on the university. As a result, Rice had not pursued government grants with as much vigor as other Southern private schools: “This belated understanding of the dynamics of the postwar funding boom meant that Rice now needed to play catch-up, and any threat to federal funding endangered the heart of the institution” (24). To complicate matters more, the Atomic Energy Commission started putting pressure on Rice by setting up clauses in their contracts barring discrimination in relation to the resources provided by them to Rice.
The Rice Thresher was still the only outlet where people could publicly discuss race relations on campus. The Thresher staff made an effort to not show strong support for or against racial segregation of Rice. In the face of social pressure to address desegregation, the school’s administration kept referring to its charter by saying that it was legally obligated to stay exclusively white.