Ready For Battle

DISD hired Clarence Glover to defuse a racial crisis. But is he tough enough for the job?

Still, Glover intended to be a pastor. That he never became one is, according to Bishop Hoyt, the second incident that determined his maverick path. Glover came to Dallas in 1980, a freshly ordained minister and graduate of Grambling University, expecting to lead a congregation. He enrolled in graduate school at Southern Methodist University only after an appointment as pastor had not materialized. On campus, he found himself becoming more and more of an activist, and he recognized another call. "He went into an alternative ministry instead of a parish," Hoyt says.

Glover's role at SMU was, according to university chaplain William Finnin, expansive and energetic. At the time Glover matriculated, SMU was primarily--and staunchly--white, the school that many of the children of Highland Park assumed they would one day attend. Finnin credits Glover with helping the school make a smoother transition into multiculturalism than it would have otherwise. "The conflicts that arose at SMU were predictable but no less painful, but we were all growing, and Clarence was right there," Finnin recalls.

According to others, Glover also cut a rakish figure. Certainly his presence on campus was self-styled and startling at conservative SMU. He was often seen in African regalia, beating a Ghanaian drum at cultural events in the student union.

"Here was this man who came to campus in Egyptian garb. We'd never been exposed to that," says Kristin Sullivan, former editor of the Daily Campus. She remembers that more than once Glover took the newspaper to task for what he saw as insensitivity toward blacks. Sullivan says she once ran a front-page story about the Kappa Alpha fraternity's cook, a black woman. In the accompanying photograph, the cook was holding a plate of fried chicken. As if that weren't enough, the paper condescendingly addressed the woman by her first name.

It was Glover who called and complained that the story was racist. "He brought a level of debate to the campus that needed to be held," Sullivan says. "He became the point man for race on campus."

Glover remembers that his first meaningful leadership role took place when the campus senate was considering removing seats set aside for black and Hispanic student representatives. The senate rationalized that minority representation was not needed, but Glover felt the effort was discriminatory by any measure. He argued for constituency politics, and as his presentation to the senate closed, unfurled a petition with hundreds of signatures. The minority seats were saved.

Soon afterward, he was hired by the school administration as a counselor for black students. His SMU career continued to rise: He became coordinator of intercultural programs, then director of intercultural education and minority student affairs. He lectured, gave seminars, and helped the school establish celebrations of black culture that are still observed today.

Glover says his largest contribution was that in 1986 he helped develop a campus policy against racial and other forms of harassment. The policy protects anyone from "words or acts deliberately designed to disregard the safety or rights of another and which intimidate, degrade, demean, threaten, haze, or otherwise interfere with another person's rightful action" regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.

According to Jim Caswell, vice president of student affairs, Glover's role in the policy was "influential." He says Glover was very persuasive and had the best interests of students at heart. He also describes Glover as dogmatic to a fault, adding, "Clarence is a preacher. When you are in Clarence's presence, you are getting the message." Caswell believes that the policy has made a difference because students and faculty are now aware of which behaviors the school finds unacceptable.

Glover believes in policy: He says that he's spent a significant amount of his time at DISD drafting a policy for the district that has much in common with SMU's, and that when violated calls for penalties--everything from reprimands to terminations. The policy was approved by the school board in March. (Assistant superintendent Collins says that Glover shouldn't get all the credit, and that policies against religious and racial harassment have been in place since 1976. What Glover has done is consolidate them. "It's much-more-administrable policy," Collins says.)

At SMU, not everyone was getting the same message Glover was sending. Comments from some former students suggest they found him self-serving and, in a foreshadowing of the melanin controversy that continues to compromise Glover's credibility, downright wacky at times.

Corey Capers, former president of the Association for Black Students, says that Glover helped organize events and lent his voice to campus problems, but always had his head cocked to see how his efforts made him look. "He talked about himself a lot," Capers says. While at SMU, Capers took Glover's course entitled "Black and White" and was discouraged by the experience. "It was a lot of myth and mythology," he says. "A lot of the things he said--about black people having more energy and that's what enables them to do the funky chicken--really didn't enhance the dialogue."

Glover dismisses charges of self-promotion. Certainly, a dedicated self-promoter would be more widely known: Glover isn't a household name in Dallas, and even in academic conflict-resolution circles he is unknown at universities as far away as New York and as close as East Texas. The connections he made at SMU did enable him to enlarge his influence, however, particularly as a consultant to the Dallas Police Department when, in 1984, the department came under fire from the NAACP following a rash of shootings of black robbery suspects. Glover says he persuaded police to change key policies in an effort to reduce shootings. Chief among those changes was a decision to place a greater priority on preserving a suspect's life than on protecting property, he says. Glover also convinced the department to change its shooting-practice target from a black to a beige silhouette. (Police officials, when contacted by the Observer, could not recall anything about Glover's work in the mid-1980s.) And he has taken his ideas about diversity into such corporations as AT&T and WFAA-Channel 8, and to the Arlington and Duncanville school districts.

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