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Students Halt Game With Protest Over President’s Racial Comments

February 8, 1995

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) _ Students protesting inflammatory racial comments by the Rutgers University president staged a basketball court sit-in Tuesday that forced suspension of the game.

The sell-out crowd at the Rutgers Athletic Center, mostly whites, shouted ``Get off the court″ and ``We want hoops″ to the 150 students, mostly blacks, who took to the court during halftime.

Rutgers President Francis L. Lawrence was not at the game. He has been criticized some university students and faculty for his comments last fall that minorities don’t have the hereditary genetic background to do well on college entrance exams.

As some students sat in the middle of the basketball court, several others circled them, carrying banners blasting Lawrence.

``How do we deal with an intellectually disadvantaged president? We fire him,″ read one.

Police and university officials negotiated briefly with the students while the Rutgers team and the University of Massachusetts team returned to the locker room. About a half-hour later, Atlantic 10 Commissioner Linda Bruno ordered the game suspended and the crowd of 8,525 was asked the leave. Rutgers was ahead 31-29 at the half.

Rutgers’ vice president of student affairs, Roselle Wilson, said a university policy prohibited removing the protesters as long as they were peaceful. The protesters left peacefully after the game was suspended.

Pete Kowalski, a spokesman for Rutgers’ sports department, said there were no arrests.

Lawrence could not be reached for comment. His phone number is unlisted and university spokeswoman Pam Orell said it was too late to contact him.

A recording of Lawrences’s Nov. 11 comments was distributed by the faculty union last week.

``The average SAT for African-Americans is 750,″ he said. ``Do we set standards in the future so that we don’t admit anybody with the national test? Or do we deal with a disadvantaged population that doesn’t have that genetic hereditary background to have a higher average?″

Lawrence apologized last week for ``the damage and the pain″ he had caused and said he could not ``explain a remark that said precisely the opposite of my deeply held beliefs.″

Lawrence, who became president in 1990, said he would not step down, despite calls for his resignation from student governments, the student newspaper and the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. School officials said they had no plans to discipline Lawrence.

``The students are not satisfied with the answers they got from president Lawrence,″ Roselle Wilson, Rutgers’ vice president of student affairs, said during Tuesday’s protest.

On Monday, about 11 Rutgers administrators, students and the son of singer and black civil rights activist Paul Robeson _ a Rutgers graduate _ held a campus press conference Monday to express their support for Lawrence.

About 31 percent of the state university’s 40,000 students are minorities.

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