On the Point and in the Valleys

A Historical Perspective of Equity and Diversity at Hanover College

John Finley Crowe headshot
John Finley Crowe

The history of equity and diversity at Hanover is complex and not always proud. In 1823, John Finley Crowe described Hanover, Indiana, as “the land of civil and religious liberty.” Crowe had just fled Kentucky, where his work as an anti-slavery preacher and publisher had caused his friends and neighbors to turn against him. On the northern bank of the Ohio, Crowe believed he would be free to educate both whites and blacks for the ministry and to help erase the “foul stain” of slavery from the world. The Preparatory Department at Hanover Academy took a step toward realizing this dream in 1832 when it admitted Benjamin Templeton, a free black man who came to Indiana after he was driven out of a less progressive Ohio college, and who went on to serve as a minister in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Crowe’s record on slavery, however, is less honorable than appears at first blush. He favored the repatriation of African Americans to Liberia rather than their full citizenship. And by 1836, the College’s voice for racial justice had gone silent. In the face of financial strain and fears that Southern students would leave in protest of abolitionist rhetoric, Crowe and the College’s trustees banned any discussion of slavery on the Hanover campus. The decision mirrored a similar prohibition in the U.S. Congress, but silenced debate at a time when it was needed most. Templeton left campus that year without finishing his studies and without every actually being officially enrolled in the college. In 1857, the College turned away Moses Broiles and voted to return a scholarship earmarked for him and other black students.

While Hanover welcomed other diverse elements to campus – opening to women starting in 1880 and hosting international students starting in the early 20th century – it would be 112 years before Hanover admitted another American student of color. Alma Gene Prince arrived in 1948, long after most other Indiana colleges began enrolling black students. She was welcomed by many faculty and students, who strongly supported desegregation of the College, but at the trustee level, some worked behind the scenes to discourage her attendance. Several board members opposed Prince’s presence and discussed helping her to “move along to another school.” Prince graduated in 1951 with the help of Katherine Parker and other supporters, and in 1952 the Board of Trustees voted officially to remove any remaining barriers to African American admission to the College.

Change, however, came slowly. A 1954 survey of racial attitudes in the Triangle found that the vast majority of Hanoverians said they were ready to live and learn with black students. In the 1960s, students worked to start a local chapter of the NAACP and participated in the Selma to Montgomery March. The innovative Hanover Plan, which created Spring Term, also added the requirement that all juniors take one course each in World Literature and Non-Western Studies.

The 1962-63 Hanover College Catalog reads, “Education must liberate men from dislike of each other based on ignorance of different cultural patterns and prejudices against them. It is essential today that Western nations study other cultures.”

However, at a 1969 group interview conducted by the student newspaper, Hanover’s 13 African American students reported that the College’s acceptance and understanding were conditional at best. Anyone who did not conform to white expectations or expressed strong opinions faced administrative censure or social isolation. White students were naïve about the black experience, and the African Americans said they felt like tokens, there only to help educate the majority. They also bemoaned the lack of black faculty role models who could help navigate or mitigate the experience. “It seems like to come here, you have to pay the price to be part of the system,” one student said (“Hanover: Negroes are here really as tokens”).

The Haqs, circa 1970
Anwarul and Mythili Haq

The Fall of 1969 saw the arrival of Anwarul and Mythili Haq. A sociologist, Mythili had received her Ph.D. from the University of Bombay in 1959, a time in which few women were awarded advanced degrees anywhere on the globe. The Haqs used the newly created Spring Term to take students to India, Afghanistan, and Hawaii. A scholar of Asian Studies, Anwarul helped found Hanover’s Cross-Cultural Studies major in 1973 and, as the primary instructor of the Non-Western Studies requirement, helped shape the worldview of generations of Hanover students. After the Haqs’ deaths in the early 1990s, gifts from their family and the Haq estate helped develop the multi-cultural center that now bears their name.

By 1993, there were 55 international and minority students on Hanover’s campus, comprising 5.3 percent of the student body. While residence halls and classrooms appeared slightly more diverse, they still did not match the U.S. population as a whole. The College “seems to be progressing” toward inclusion, one Triangle editor wrote, despite continuing “cross-cultural ineptitude.” That year, the campus Multi-Cultural Center, the chaplain’s office, and Student Life sponsored a series of workshops called “Disunity to Community.” Conducted by the Indiana Interreligious Commission on Human Equality, the workshops featured interactive sessions designed to promote cultural awareness and develop skills for cross-cultural communication. That year, black students founded the group Positive Image to reach across racial boundaries and decrease prejudice, but then pulled their women’s intramural team out of competition because of tensions over football. The only black team in the league had been accused of rough play and violating the rules. The Positive Image women said the real problem was the lack of multi-cultural understanding.

As the 20th century came to a close, LGBTQ students and their allies also began to advocate for acceptance. Seniors Maggie Clifton and January Simpson were crowned members of the Fall 1997 Homecoming court, but most LGBTQ students on campus were deeply closeted. Harassment was common and pervasive. Clifton approached President Russell Nichols that year with a request to start a group for gay and lesbian students. Nichols deemed the campus “unready” for an official PFLAG organization but agreed to a group advocating diversity – including sexual orientation.

Love Out Loud quickly made its real intentions clear, sponsoring the annual National Freedom to Marry Day, a week-long installation of the National AIDS quilt in Lynn Gym, and the College’s first-ever drag performance. Ten years later, LOL celebrated its first decade by hoisting a rainbow flag in the tailgate lot and sponsoring its own tent at Homecoming.

Despite a number of initiatives, Hanover continued to struggle in the early 2000s to attract students from diverse racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds. In 2001-2003, the Haq Center and Student Life partnered with Central High School in Louisville to host summer programs for economically disadvantaged and minority students and to send faculty to the Louisville school for lectures and workshops.

In 2011, however, Hanover recalled its roots and found a path forward, launching a scholarship program named after its first black student and aimed at recruiting and retaining undergraduates with a commitment to social justice and campus change. The Benjamin Templeton Scholarship offers full tuition to 10 first-year students per year based on their strong academic backgrounds and work in high school to build bridges among socially, economically, and racially diverse groups.

President Sue DeWine inaugurated the Templeton Scholarship and also authorized the creation of Hanover’s first Disability Services program. Until that time, there was no coordinated effort to provide accommodations for students with physical or learning differences. Eight students received DS accommodations that fall. During the 2010s, concerned members of the College community also launched the Community Alliance and Resource Team, a group of faculty and staff from all branches of the College who serve as allies to support those who have experienced bias incidents and who work to provide education and training to faculty, staff, and students.

Throughout its history, Hanover also has made it a priority to educate first-generation college students. John Finley Crowe established the college to educate the young men of the frontier for the ministry. Today, 22 percent of students identify as first-generation and nearly a third are Pell Grant recipients, coming from families earning less than $50,000 per year.

Both DeWine and current President Lake Lambert have made diversity and inclusion pillars of their strategic plans as well as their aspirational goals. Hanover should be a place where all are welcome and feel at home. In the last 10 years, there have been some notable successes:

  • Between 2008 and 2018, the number of African American students more than doubled.
  • More than 160 international and minority students live and learn here, making up 15.7 percent of the student body.
  • Student groups on campus now include Black Student Union, the drag group Hanover Queens and Kings, and the Latino Student Union, as well as long-standing organizations like Kaleidoscope (formerly Positive Image), Love Out Loud and the International Club.
  • The College hosts a LGBTQ+ Center in Lynn Hall as well as the Haq Multi-Cultural Center in the J. Graham Brown Campus Center.
  • In classrooms and residence halls, the College meets the accessibility needs of more than 150 students per year.
  • Students, faculty, and staff sporting “I’m First!” buttons recently gathered in the Campus Center lobby to celebrate first-generation student day.

At the same time, these statistics fall short of the goals set forth by President Lambert in the Hanover 2020 Clear Vision Strategic Plan.

A series of focus groups found that students of color still echo some of the same concerns voiced by the 13 interviewed by the Triangle in 1969. While many students say they’ve found a home here and the campus appears more diverse, sometimes appearance does not equal reality. Microaggressions continue to be a problem, and the campus continues to need multi-cultural education.

While Hanover has made strides in hiring more international faculty and those from the LGBTQ community, focus group participants noted that the College still has no African American faculty.

Beyond the Point, America itself continues to struggle to make everyone feel welcome. National politics has turned rancorous, and bias incidents are on the upswing. Hanover students have often encountered bias, both implicit and explicit, in the surrounding community. Jefferson County, Indiana, has been the target of Ku Klux Klan rallies for the last four years. Hanover is committed to working with community leaders to address bias incidents off campus as well as those that happen on its 650 acres.

As Hanover looks ahead to its third century, it cannot forget the past. Our work is far from done. The College must remember both its successes and its failures and use the lessons learned to meet the long-term needs of an increasingly diverse world. The 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Plan contains long-standing goals and yet has a short enough time frame to ensure we remain engaged and focused on our continuing mission. We set out these goals to hold ourselves accountable for becoming the place we have always wanted to be.