The Black Caucus serves as the umbrella organization for Black undergraduate students at Penn State. Its mission is to promote the positive and successful growth and development of its constituency. The Black Caucus aids in the political, social, and cultural development of Black students, while acting as the representative voice of Black students to the University and other student organizations.
The Black Caucus was founded in 1971 to replace the then mostly inactive Black Student Union. The new organization represented a broader constituency, including Puerto Ricans and Black graduate students.
The organization emerged from the midst of dissent over the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) during the summer of 1971. The group helped to gain support from Black state legislators in the EOP controversy. A group of concerned Black students (who later formed the nucleus of the Black Caucus) presented the Black Legislative Caucus with a list of 42 grievances about the program. The list included the lack of black advisors, counselors, tutors, research personnel, and administrators. The lack of supportive services for EOP students, including financial aid packages based on need, was also cited. As a result of student efforts, an internal investigation, and legislative pressure, EOP was restructured, and the director was terminated.
The Black Caucus was not officially chartered by the University until February 24, 1972, shortly after “merging” with the remaining leadership of the Black Student Union. The Black Caucus replaced the Black Student Union as the representative group for Black students at Penn State. James Lomax, a Vietnam veteran, served as the first Chairman of the Black Caucus.
In 1978, led by past President William “Butch” Randolph, the Black Caucus launched a campaign to gain student support to persuade the University to divest all investments in South African related companies. In 1987, after nine years of petitions, discussions, and protests, the University Board of Trustees would finally vote in favor of divestiture.
The Black Caucus is also noted for increasing minority recruitment, the organization has continuously provided a variety of social, educational, and cultural programming.
The Black Caucus adopted its name in tribute to the Pennsylvania Black Legislative Caucus, which were early champions of their causes with the Penn State administration.