CHARLOTTESVILLE, SEPT. 28 -- Genuine integration at the formerly all-white University of Virginia is "far from complete," a task force said today in urging $2.5 million worth of changes to improve the racial climate and increase the number of black students and staff members on the campus.
The recommendations of the 16-member Task Force on Afro-American Affairs include more vigorous recruiting, improved financial aid, better advising and tutoring to reduce the high dropout rate among blacks, and a study of claims that the school's prized honor system discriminates against minority group members.
Also, the task force urged the university to offer more racial sensitivity training for faculty members, provide a more welcoming social environment for black students, and undertake more aggressive monitoring of progress toward achieving racial goals.
The university, which did not begin admitting more than a few black students until 1969, had only 1,100 blacks among its 17,000 undergraduates and graduate students last fall. (Nearly 4,300 students, including an unknown percentage of blacks, are from Northern Virginia.)
The 6.5 percent black enrollment was far less than the 18 percent representation of blacks in Virginia's population. Only 27 of the school's full-time classroom teachers were black -- 1.8 percent of the total.
University President Robert M. O'Neil named the task force last summer in the wake of racial turmoil that forced the resignation of the school's Afro-American affairs dean.
It is the third task force named by O'Neil, who came to the campus two years ago from the University of Wisconsin and concluded that the university has a long way to go before erasing its image as a party school dominated by southern white men. The other reports focused on substance abuse and the role of women at the elite university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson.
O'Neil released the report three days before a Thursday "rally against racism" in the Charlottesville area that is to culminate in a march to the university Rotunda and a speech by the Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
If all task force recommendations were implemented in a year, the price tag would be $2.5 million. The task force also urged a $2.5 million endowment for minority projects.
The group, composed of school officials and students, did not address the controversy over whether the university should sell its stocks in companies that do business in South Africa. University trustees have resisted calls to divest, and another university committee is looking into that issue.
"The self-transformation of the University of Virginia into a genuinely integrated institution equally receptive to people of all races is far from complete," the task force report said.
The university has admitted blacks under legal pressure but "in many instances, not truly accepted blacks," the report said. Most white students in a recent undergraduate survey, for example, disagreed with the statement that minority students are admitted on merit, "not simply to fulfill a quota."
In addition, the task force said, the black dropout rate is disproportionately high, in part because of perceived hostility and poor academic advising. Only 54 percent of black students graduate in four years, compared with 74 percent of nonblacks.
O'Neil told a news conference that he would accept many of the task force's recommendations and study the remaining ones. He promised to hire a university affirmative action officer soon, and he said next year's budget request to the state General Assembly includes more spending for financial aid and academic help for blacks.
"There should be no doubt at the outset about the university's commitment or my own," the president said.
Task force Chairman Mark Reisler, assistant dean of the university's business school, said he was "gratified" by O'Neil's support. "We're very optimistic that the university will follow up on this report," he said.
The university's Black Student Alliance had no immediate comment on the task force's conclusions. President Marvin Dickerson said the group needed time to study the inch-thick report.