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Dean Hampton: watch for the five 'Horsemen of the Apocalypse'

Robert L. Hampton, former professor and dean of the College
Robert L. Hampton, former professor and dean of the College

Beware of the five Horsemen of the Apocalypse: ignorance, illiteracy, intolerance, injustice and indifference.

If you let your guard down, they'll creep back in, said former Dean of the College Robert L. Hampton, the keynote speaker at an April 2 conference on the future and history of diversity at the College. More about the conference.

Hampton's topic was "Are We There Yet?" and he concluded that society is not.

"The five Horsemen of the Apocalypse are still threatening the gains we've made," said Hampton, currently vice president for academic affairs at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta.
"We versus them" is still the dynamic too often, he said. Too many K-12 schools are underperforming, too many people believe the playing field is level, and too many people are afraid of "reverse discrimination."

About 60 people attended the day-long conference sponsored by the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Hampton, who joined Connecticut College as a sociology professor in 1974 and left for the University of Maryland in 1994, noted that African Americans were leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s -- a movement that has grown to include minorities ranging from LGBTQ to Muslims.

He urged the alumni, faculty, staff and students in the audience to practice tolerance and to lend a hand when they can. "Send the elevator back down, like Jewel did," he said, referring to Jewel Plummer Cobb. Cobb, a retired Connecticut College dean, was honored in absentia during the conference.

Hampton credited the students who led the Fanning takeover in 1986 with pushing the College to change. "We wouldn't be here today celebrating this event if it weren't for those courageous students," he said.

In 1986 Hampton found himself in an uncomfortable place: outside Fanning, listening to the people gathered around the building. He eventually went inside and served as a mediator between the students and the administration. The problem, he said, was that there weren't more people inside with the students.

One of the leaders of the takeover, Frank Tuitt '87, now a trustee of the College, was in the audience. Tuitt, trustee W. Estella Johnson '75 and Robin Wilson '82, a member of the Alumni Board, talked about their experiences as African American students on campus in the 1970s and '80s.



April 13, 2011