Ball State graduate witnessed protests

Early Outreach Director was a student during 1960s, 1970s.

It was the end of the '60s and the beginning of a new decade. Protests and demonstrations over civil rights, women's liberation and the Vietnam War were going strong, especially on college campuses.

According to David Davis, an undergraduate at Ball State at the time, these were common occurrences.

"It was a time of tremendous social consciousness," said Davis, who is now the director of the Early Outreach Programs in the Office of Admissions. "We were coming out of the Vietnam War, and students were at the forefront of protests. It was a wonderful time to be a student because so many people had the initiative to stand up for the rights of others and their own."

Davis received his bachelor's degree in sociology in 1972 and his master's in guidance and counseling in 1973. He enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Illinois, transferred to Purdue and completed the program at Ball State in 1994 with a doctorate in adult and community education.

According to Davis, as an undergraduate, Ball State was in the midst of a transformation from a teachers' college to a university, causing a growth spurt in the admissions of both black and white students.

Davis said times were tense because the number of African-Americans enrolling was increasing nationwide and at Ball State, and it forced those not familiar with minorities to come out of their comfort zones.

"The university had to grow in the awareness that if they're going to bring in a diverse population, then they had to change and adapt to the students as well as the students to the university," he said. "They couldn't be one-sided."

Among the black students, Davis said there was a strong sense of community.

"Whether people knew you or not, they acknowledged you," Davis said.

"When you walked down the street people smiled and waved at you."

Davis also said the black leadership was strong, especially in times of civil rights and racial tension, and students participated in demonstrations, protests and rallies.

"There was great student activism," Davis said. "We were fighting for human rights, and we had a 'we're all in this together' mentality. We didn't limit ourselves to one purpose.

"If you had something to contribute and had something to say, and what you said was thought-provoking and insightful, then you would find people willing to listen."

The interaction between the black and white students was also an interesting dynamic, he said. According to Davis, while there was sometimes tension, there were a lot of non-minorities who were in favor of the civil rights movement, and in-class discussions were common.

"What people stood for was not because of their ethnic background, but their personal values," Davis said.

Today, Davis said he sees more determination among the students, but the sense of togetherness has declined.

"Students today in general don't have the historical awareness and significance of what has occurred for them to be where they are today," he said. "I see more people doing their own thing. Students are, however, a lot more focused in terms of what they want to do with their lives and are goal-oriented."

Davis said he succeeded because of self-determination, and he encouraged students to not let adversity get the better of them.

"A lot of what you accomplish will be in spite of people and not always because of them," he said. "You cannot allow things or people to be obstacles you can't overcome, because you can accomplish anything."


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