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Group sends letters to trustees

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Some black Notre Dame alumni say the recent firing of football coach Tyrone Willingham will hamper the school's efforts to recruit and retain black students and teachers.

Black Alumni of Notre Dame, a group representing about 2,000 Notre Dame graduates, has issued a statement of support for
Willingham and is mailing letters to all of Notre Dame's trustees
expressing their concern over his firing last week.

"The decision made by the Administration is both premature and
unprecedented," the statement said. "It disregards [Willingham's]
outstanding first season, off-field success and increased integrity
and academic strides among our football players."

The statement represents a consensus of the group's 18-member
national board, said Danielle Boucree, the group's chairwoman and a
1991 Notre Dame graduate. Boucree said Tuesday that she and other
black alumni were shocked at Willingham's firing.

"They didn't think about the ramifications to the
African-American community," Boucree said. "If they are truly
dedicated to expanding ethnic diversity in the university, this
action isn't in line with that."

When Willingham was hired, Boucree said, there was a slight
increase in applications from black high school students, whom she
said may have felt more welcome on campus by his hiring.

"This action does quite the opposite," she said.

Black Alumni of Notre Dame raises money for scholarships and
helps the university recruit and mentor minority students. Boucree
said some members of the group wanted to give up their positions in
protest and no longer help recruit students, but they changed their
minds.

Boucree said the group is willing to help the university repair
the damage caused by the firing. And she said if a similar
situation arises, she hopes the university consults people of color
and thinks about the impact on the black community.

About 40 black students met with some Notre Dame administrators
Sunday to discuss Willingham's firing and how they felt betrayed by
the university's action, a student who attended told the South Bend
Tribune.

Increasing diversity has been a major goal for the Notre Dame
administration.

Black enrollment at the university has been gradually increasing
in recent years. This semester, black students account for 3.7
percent of Notre Dame's undergraduate student body.