1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would a Major University Act Like This?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Catrin Lewis, Jun 4, 2014.

    All right. It's June of 1965. Our hero, Eric, who has wanted to be an architect most of his life, has just graduated from high school and had planned to take up his place in the Architecture School of a Big and Expensive University in the eastern part of the United States.

    But alas! Eric, though very talented, is poor, and the East Coast university is VERY expensive. He's from North Dakota and doesn't qualify for in-state tuition. He has a scholarship, but the funds come nowhere near covering the cost.

    He decides to take the next year working and saving and scrounging up more grant/scholarship money. The East Coat university agrees to hold his admission for the following year.

    Very nice. But alas! again. Before the summer after his HS graduation is out, he is drafted. And eventually sent to Vietnam. The Big, Expensive East Coast University says Sorry, we can't hold your place that long; apply again when you're finished with your military duty.

    It's now September of 1966. Eric reapplies while still in-country in Vietnam, knowing he'll be home and discharged by the beginning of the Fall semester the following year. The Big Expensive East Coast University says Sorry, his application arrived too late and all the architecture school positions are filled.

    To hell with them, Eric says, and applies for admission to the state university in North Dakota. They also tell him all the positions are filled.

    This is ridiculous, he thinks. He got both those applications in in good time and it's not like the mail from Vietnam has to go by clipper ship.

    After he's Stateside again and discharged from the Army, he does some digging and finds out that the Big Expensive East Coast University shut him out not because there were no openings left, but because the admissions officer was a radical and bore a flaming hate against soldiers, especially those who were serving in Nam. The North Dakota school turned him down because they save spots for Native American candidates and all the white guy positions were taken. This makes Eric very angry and he responds by writing a flamingly nasty letter to the editor of his ND newspaper. He will deeply regret this later.

    All this backstory will serve to give the villain a hold over him (or maybe not :D!). It also forces Eric to move to the Midwestern city where he meets the heroine. :friend:

    Anyway . . . back in the mid-60s would someone who was drafted have to give up their place in college and reapply for when their tour was through? When a Vietnam veteran did reapply, is it within the realm of possibility that an admissions officer would behave towards him in that fashion? And is believable that a school in ND would be practicing a kind of affirmative action in the mid-60s?

    (And in case you feel like hating on my hero, he's not a bigot in general. With most people unlike himself he's very accepting and open minded. His problem is that his missionary father for all intents and purposes abandoned his family to minister to the people on the Sioux reservation, leaving Eric to shoulder the burden of father to his younger brother and instilling him with a great deal of jealousy and resentment towards Indians. He'll have to get over this before the book is over.)
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    An acceptance in a university would be for that year only. I've not heard of holding a place for someone for a subsequent year.

    You might want to research when affirmative action started affecting university admissions, but that is a reasonable scenario.

    As for the admissions officer who dislikes vets, I have a hard time with that one. It's unlikely a single person is responsible for admissions, it's typically a group decision, and one person with a bias like that would have a hard time vetoing all vets.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Ginger is right about that last part. There's an admissions committee with multiple people reviewing all potential candidates. That's especially true for large universities.

    I'm not sure about the rest.
     
  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Group decision-- yeah, I guess that's the case. Though come to think of it, if he were told one guy influenced the decision, even if it was false, it might come to the same thing.

    But I'll have to decide what really happened, whether he knows or not.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  5. GingerCoffee
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    It's realistic there was one person in an admissions committee who influenced the final decision. If you are going to write it though, it would help to research admissions processes and see what kind of influence an individual could have and on what basis.
     
  6. Ben414
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    I'm not sure when affirmative action in universities first started, but it stems from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The first landmark affirmative action case in the Supreme Court was California v. Bakke, in which the University of California Davis Medical School started affirmative action in 1971. That is the earliest program that I know of. I find it doubtful that your described programs would have affirmative action in 1965-1966.

    1-year deferrals are somewhat common nowadays in universities, especially post-graduate schooling where work experience is important. Once again, I'm not sure when this practice became so prevalent.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
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  7. WeWill77
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    WeWill77 Member

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    My father, born in 1952, has told me that attending university would actually keep one from being drafted, legally. He's told me that if his number had been called, he would not have been forced to go until after he'd completed his course of study. When he talks about it, it sounds like he believes being in college saved his life.​
     
  8. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could see an influential committee member saying something like, "This candidate just started his tour of duty in Viet Nam and for all we know, by next fall he won't be able-- ahem!-- to come take it up. I recommend we go for candidates who will have a better likelihood of showing up." And keeping his real feelings to himself. Or my guy could interpret such an approach as prejudice against VN vets.

    Would that make sense?
     
  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    True. Now, this takes place before the draft lottery was instituted. And this student deferment factor is why I'm arranging it so my hero isn't enrolled in college (or able/planning to go there) for the next year when he's called up.
     
  10. WeWill77
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    I'm not positive of this, but I also remember my father saying that he might not have gone to college, but the deferment factor made the decision for him. He grew up on a farm and went to UW-Madison for Dairy Science even though he had plenty of job offers available to him. He'd been selling irrigation equipment and was doing quite well.

    It's my understanding that if a guy had even good enough grades, and no criminal convictions (maybe you can write that he got caught for LSD or pot or something and now the school won't let him in because of criminal record....), the midwestern public land grand schools, like ND or NDSU, wouldn't really consider turning him away. Most of what people hear about affirmative action seems to be myth. My understanding is that it wasn't built to turn people away, but rather to give extra opportunities to people the government categorized as belonging to certain racial groups. These "minorities" had a lower bar for entry, and this seems to be the rub. Also, is it believable that a (most likely) all white Admissions committee would turn away a qualified white student because of race, knowing that he was at risk of being drafted?

    Also, enrollment in general was much lower in the 60s than it is now, and schools were less competitive. I'd strongly suggest doing outside research on the university system in the 60s, and reading heaps and stacks of memoirs from Vietnam vets who were drafted or willfully enlisted. This is one of the most volatile subjects in American culture, and people who are familiar with Vietnam will not entertain your story/novel if the details aren't in order. You will have to watch your words carefully and constantly correct yourself. Sorry.

    I think if this character is to be believable there's got to be some reason this person either doesn't understand the risk of being drafted, doesn't mind going to Vietnam (indefinitely?), or doesn't want to go to college. Unlike the reasons people go to university, people's explanations for being willing to join the military seem to be due to poverty or for a deeply psychological or cultural reason. Memoirs and interviews are going to be your best source of info, I think.
     
  11. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the reply. Lots to think about here. But reread the original post. He applies to NDSU (or the fictional version thereof) after he's already been drafted and is serving.

    The important thing to the plot is that at the age of 20 Eric should believe-- even if it's not true-- that he was kept out by some kind of proto-affirmative action. Maybe a private donor endowed a number of scholarships for Native Americans and that took up places that otherwise would be there. Again, the idea is that 14 years later the villain will use his immoderate reaction back in 1966 as blackmail to try to get him to do the villain's will. So whatever gets the reaction will do the trick.
     
  12. WeWill77
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    The point I was trying to get across is that I don't think your premise (that he's already been drafted, etc.)
    is realistic. I think it needs to be tweaked. Just posting this for clarification. Best of luck.
     

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