The Caucus at Purdue University traces its roots to discussions and informal meetings among African American faculty and staff on the Purdue University West Lafayette campus in fall 1970. The concept for an organized group of Black faculty and staff initially was circulated by Dr. Buchanan, who held the position of coordinator of Black Student Programs at the time. These discussions continued over the next few years until September 1974, when faculty and staff members responded positively to a proposal from Mr. Sam Hay, Director of Africana Studies and Research, to develop a more formal organizational structure. An ad hoc leadership group began planning for that goal with monthly meetings at the old Black Cultural Center.
Under a constitution ratified in December 1974, African American faculty and staff members voted on April 17, 1975, to establish the Black Faculty and Staff Council of Purdue University and elected as its first officers Dr. Luther Williams (Chairperson), Ms. Marion Blalock (Vice Chairperson), Dr. Darlene [Clark-]Hine (Recording Secretary-Treasurer), Mrs. Helen Bass Williams (Corresponding Secretary), Mr. Kenneth McNight (Parliamentarian), Capt. Jerome Adams, Mr. Samuel Hay, and Ms. Phoebe Coleman (Members-at-Large). Purdue President Arthur G. Hansen was duly notified later that month. By spring 1976, the organization became known as the Black Caucus of Faculty and Staff.
The basic purpose, goals, and objectives of the Caucus have remained consistent across the life of the organization and are articulated most clearly in its Constitution and Bylaws (1984):
The purpose of the Purdue Black Caucus of Faculty and Staff shall be:
- To identify and act upon those issues which affect Black people at Purdue University and the greater Lafayette community, especially as they relate to the function of the University;
- To institute and maintain an effective and positive relationship between the University and its Black constituency both on and off campus;
- To reinforce self-awareness among Black people by implementing programs and activities designed to achieve these aims;
- To gather and disseminate information about available talent, opportunities, and activities that will provide the University with a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the Black experience;
- To carry out other activities of a charitable and educational nature to promote the welfare of Black faculty, staff, and students.
From its earliest years, the Caucus undertook monitoring the number and status of African American staff and students at Purdue, providing mutual support, and engaging upper-administration in planning for change and advancement on matters of concern. One important, visible, and consistent function has been the Black Caucus of Faculty and Staff Annual Academic and Service Awards Program. Initially begun as an "Academic Support Fund Dance" that raised money for academic merit awards and a possible emergency loan fund, the Caucus distributed 30 "incentive awards" to Black students for the end of the 1975-76 academic year. The second annual Academic Support Fund Dance honored 60 outstanding Purdue undergraduates with cash awards, gifts, and certificated for excellence in scholarship, community service, and leadership. Continuing its tradition of honoring students using only voluntary donations, more than 200 students were honored at the 31st Annual Academic and Service Awards Program.