FORGOTTEN PROMISE by Gretchen von Loewe Kreuter


Race and Gender Wars on a Small College Campus
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 A balanced yet caring memoir of a year at a racially divided campus. Kreuter served, in academic year 199293, as the interim president of a small college, which she calls Middleton. (The identity of the college, located in Minnesota, will probably be obvious to many observers.) She took on a great deal for one year; not only did the college face a Title IX challenge, possible loss of accreditation, and declining enrollment, but it had also been badly shaken by a racial incident the previous spring. A fight between two students, one black and one white, had drawn some 50 spectators, the angry crowd divided along racial lines. The brawl sparked a flare-up of tensions that had been building for some time. Some black students left campus and did not return, the president resigned, and the news media made much of the scandal. Kreuter arrived with an idealistic sense of her own peacemaking powers. Initially it went well: Black student activists considered her far more responsive to their concerns than her predecessor, and she hired some minority faculty and administrators and set up a multicultural center. But Kreuter could do little to change the racism of the white students or of the Greek system, nor could she calm the black students' justifiable paranoia. In her account, Kreuter sees campus events through a finer lens than do many anti- PC crusaders. She offers sympathetic and critical perspectives on Nation of Islam followers and white small-town Midwesterners alike, and offers a useful social context for Middleton's troubles: Colleges, she notes, are accessible now to many more women, people of color, and working-class people, and thus they are far more subject to the tensions of the outside world. This absorbing account should be of interest to anyone who has followed the campus multiculturalism wars.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44700-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996


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