A story yesterday incorrectly reported that University of Kentucky students protested a racist remark earlier this month by the chancellor. The remark was made by former governor A.B. (Happy) Chandler, a member of the University's board of trustees. (Published 4/ 20/88)

AMHERST, MASS. -- For Dwayne Warren, a black political science major at the sprawling University of Massachusetts campus here, racism is white classmates' surprise when he scores well on an exam. "Some whites don't expect you to excel," he said. "And when you do, it's a shock to them."

For Myriam Santiago, a Puerto Rican native majoring in family and community services, racism is a cold shoulder from white students in classes where she is often the only Hispanic. "I make an effort to talk to people," she said, "but you can tell by someone's body language when they don't want to talk to you."

But hostility toward the university's growing minority population is sometimes less subtle. In February, two black male students and a white female student attended a party together and were attacked on their way home by six whites. About 200 angry minority students took over New Africa House, demanding tougher prohibitions against racial harassment and a stronger commitment to increase minority enrollment and faculty.

On its face, the six-day occupation was startlingly similar to a siege here 18 years ago, when several armed black students took over the basement of the building that became New Africa House, the black cultural center they demanded. Then as now, they sought tougher sanctions against racial attacks and more recruiting of minority students and staff.

Even the triggering incident was similar: After a minor traffic accident, a white student threatened to round up his friends and attack a group of blacks.

But in the intervening two decades, something changed profoundly: the mood and methods of the students.

When black students waited in 1970 for the mob that never materialized, they reportedly carried broken pieces of furniture, guns and knives, and they spoke to administrators through faculty members. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been dead less than two years, and black student activists across the country were debating bitterly whether to work within social institutions or against them.

By contrast, when minority students barred whites from New Africa House Feb. 12, they discovered a visiting white professor working in an obscure office and agreed that she should finish her day's research. They appointed spokesmen, who put on jackets and ties to speak to reporters. They sent a sympathy note to university Chancellor Joseph Duffey when he went to visit his ailing brother. ("Duffey is basically a good fellow," one protester said. "He is humane. We are humane.")

These students were more pragmatic, more self-confident, more optimistic than their predecessors in the black-power movement. "There was none of the hostility that you would have had 20 years ago," said John Bracey, a black Afro-American studies professor who took part in a 1968 takeover at Northwestern University.

"In 1970, there was a lot of confusion and a lot of paranoia," said Sherwood Thompson, a participant in the 1970 incident and now an adviser to black students. "In 1988, the students were very relaxed. And they worked out their demands with a belief that the system would work for them."

That belief -- based largely, minority students say, on the gains they have already made -- helps distinguish the demonstration here from dozens of protests that have occurred on college campuses this semester as the percentage of blacks among university students continues to drop and the number of reported racial incidents rises.

At nearby Hampshire College, 40 black and Hispanic students seized a dormitory in late February, demanding more attention to minority enrollment and activities.

At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, protesting minority students won disciplinary action last month against four white reporters for the conservative Dartmouth Review. The whites had entered a classroom to confront a black music professor after he declined to be interviewed.

At the University of Pennsylvania, a white fraternity was closed after black students protested a party at which two black women performed a strip show.

At the University of Kentucky, students marched early this month to protest a racist remark by the chancellor.

At Duke University last week, students protested a dearth of black professors.

At the University of Michigan, students outside a closed regents meeting last week protested an antidiscrimination policy they said was adopted without student input.

The racial tension that sparked those demonstrations and a long list of others has a positive charge at the University of Massachusetts. Warren, an aspiring politician and a leader of the February takeover, says he enrolled here two years ago as a transfer student because of the relatively large number of minority students who played a noticeable role in student government.

"I saw the campus as a laboratory for leadership," he said. "It seemed that you could bring your life plan here and try to refine it."

Warren won a seat in the student senate. Last year, he ran with a white as a cocandidate for student president, losing narrowly to a white candidate who promised to ease alcohol restrictions on campus.

"Racism is a serious problem here, but we're far ahead of other schools," Warren said. "When I came here, I never thought I'd be running for president."

Santiago, another protest leader, said she believes that the university should spend more money on its Bilingual Collegiate Program, a tutorial service, and redouble its efforts to hire minority faculty.

But she also said she thinks that the university has made a good start and that the campus is alive with opportunities for minority students. "I came here and fell in love with the place," she said. "We have racism here, but we're fighting it."

Some university officials contend that racial harassment on campus is a product of white resentment toward a rising minority presence -- bucking the national trend -- and underscores the isolation that many minority students nevertheless continue to feel.

"We've passed that critical mass where some white students begin to feel threatened," said Randolph Bromery, who was the university's first black chancellor, from 1971 to 1979. "But we have not yet achieved that second critical mass where minority students begin to feel comfortable."

In the last five years, the percentage of minorities among 24,000 graduate and undergraduate students has increased from 5 percent to about 8 percent; nationwide, black college enrollment has increased numerically, but dropped from 9.6 percent of the student population to about 8.8 percent. The percentage of minority tenured faculty here has grown from about 6 percent to 8 percent.

Michael D. Ross, a white senior and president of the campus Republican Club, argues that minority students want more than they're entitled to. "The administration and our community as a whole have done a very good job meeting their demands, but you get to the point where you say, 'Enough is enough,' " he said. "We favor equal rights, not special rights."

But Gil Penchina, a white sophomore, said that many whites on campus sympathize with minority students and that the outcry over racial incidents is a sign that the university is trying to come to grips with racism. "The university is not especially racist," he said. "It's just that when something happens, we don't sweep it under the rug."

Students here give Duffey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate from Connecticut in 1970, much of the credit for an atmosphere in which change seems possible. He says he developed his empathy -- and appreciation -- for the moderate black student leaders when he worked in Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign, mediating between McCarthy loyalists and Democratic Party regulars in Connecticut.

At one point during the takeover, Duffey delivered a fruit basket and an encouraging note to the students, who had told him by telephone that they'd grown hungry after more than eight hours of negotiating among themselves, as moderate and more radical protesters vied for control.

The occupation ended Feb. 17 with Duffey and a group of nine student leaders gathered around two word processors and generous helpings of Chinese food from a local carryout, composing and revising a compromise pact.

U.S. Education Secretary William J. Bennett, in a speech Sunday in New Orleans, criticized Duffey for feeding the students "and then {giving} in to all their demands . . . . One wonders what kind of teaching experience that is."

Duffey, who two years ago ordered the arrest of students protesting CIA recruiting on campus, said yesterday that Bennett was engaged in "cultural machismo . . . . He talks as if the only legitimate response is to arrest them. But that's not always appropriate."

He noted that the students won the tougher language they sought in the student conduct code barring racial harassment and more space in New Africa House for their activities, but gave up demands for hiring goals for minority faculty.

"The most important thing that's happened here is that students have exercised leadership and have tried to talk themselves through an understanding of the community they live in," he said.

But Prof. Bracey said he believes minority students' progress is likely to be accompanied by more conflict. "Minority students are going to have to push, and people are going to push back," he said.