Noteworthy News BriefsMarch 4, 1999 |
by Black Issues
Legislators Seek to Overturn Part of Hopwood Ruling
AUSTIN, Texas — Some state lawmakers are hoping new Attorney General John Cornyn could have a new — and narrower — interpretation of a federal court ruling that resulted in public universities ending consideration of race in admissions and financial aid.
Sen. Carlos Truan (D-Corpus Christi) is working on a proposed request for a legal opinion from the Republican attorney general on whether the so-called Hopwood ruling actually applies to scholarships and other financial aid. The federal court ruling came in a lawsuit against the University of Texas law school’s former affirmative-action admissions policy.
After the ruling, Democratic former Attorney General Dan Morales issued a legal opinion directing Texas colleges to adopt race-neutral policies for admissions and financial aid and scholarships. Some critics said that legal opinion was too broad.
“Of course I don’t believe that it should apply to scholarships and loans. That impacts on the higher education opportunities for a large number of minority students and many are having to either curtail their plans to continue higher education or they’re accepting scholarships and loans from universities outside of the state of Texas,” says Truan, who adds that many law school professors and four law school deans also disagree with Morales’ legal opinion.
Truan told Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) that he would like to have a new opinion requested from Cornyn.
Ratliff says he told Truan that if the Corpus Christi senator would draft such an opinion, he would consider submitting it. He says he first would want to discuss with Cornyn the legal ramifications of the new attorney general overturning the opinion.
Cornyn spokesman Ted Delisi says the attorney general’s office hasn’t yet been asked to reconsider the Hopwood decision.
“If we do receive a request, we’ll honor the legislature’s request to do so,” he says.
JACKSON, Miss. — The State College Board met last month with its lawyers to discuss questions raised in a complaint over whether university expansion on the Gulf Coast will impact Mississippi’s historically Black colleges (HBCUs).
Plaintiffs in a long-running college desegregation lawsuit filed papers asking U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. of Oxford to hold up the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast expansion. Alvin Chambliss Jr., a law professor at Texas Southern University and lead attorney for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, questions the admissions policies at USM/Gulf Coast operations.
Chambliss also says he fears the USM upgrades could interfere with state funding needed for court-approved remedies.
The desegregation case began in 1975 when the late Jake Ayers Sr. of Glen Allan sued, accusing Mississippi of neglecting three of the state’s HBCUs — Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley State universities. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Mississippi operated a segregated college system.
USM wants $2 million for Gulf Coast expansions. That includes funds for USM-Long Beach and creation of a multi-university higher education center. The legislature has not yet acted on the money.
The College Board approved the USM/Gulf Coast expansion by a 7-to-5 vote in January.
Reports from the College Board did not spell out the racial makeup of USM/Gulf Coast programs, Chambliss says.
The USM plan would add 150 freshmen next fall to the Gulf Park campus at Long Beach and 750 freshmen and sophomores over a five-year period. The board plan also proposes a USM-led higher education center on the Gulf Coast. It would allow five universities — including Jackson State, Alcorn State, and a community college — to teach classes.
“Persons from every sector of the Gulf Coast support what we are doing,” says USM President Horace Fleming Jr. “We have support from leaders in the Black community. We think it would help everybody.”
Sen. David Jordan (D-Greenwood) is urging the legislature to more than triple the $4.7 million the College Board is seeking for Ayers funding for the three HBCUs.
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University (OSU) has followed the University of Oregon with a new scholarship program to lure students in a competitive market for higher education.
Independent colleges have responded with a plan for a new statewide merit scholarship to promote student choice and access to both public and private schools.
The variety of proposals has some state officials worried that Oregon’s neediest students might be left out as new scholarships are based more on merit than financial need.
The new $500,000 Oregon State scholarship program could finance between 350 and 450 new scholarships. There’s no essay or application and every freshman who applies to OSU will be considered.
Selections will be based on academic ability and financial need with awards ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, Bontrager says.
Last month, the University of Oregon announced a new scholarship that automatically grants between $1,000 and $2,000 annually to entering freshmen who graduate from an Oregon high school with high grades. The $2 million annual program
doesn’t factor in financial need.
In contrast, OSU will give higher grants to students with greater financial need, Bontrager says, but students could still earn a grant based solely on merit.
The competition for students is growing as the state prepares to switch to a new system of funding Oregon’s seven public universities aimed at making the campuses more financially independent, instead of pooling the funding. Under the new system, any declines in enrollment could mean budget cuts.
Independent colleges are responding with proposals that would link college scholarships to new state standards for high school students, says Gary Andeen, director of the Oregon Independent Colleges Association.
ATHENS, Ga. — Despite a growing Hispanic population throughout Georgia, experts say the state has been unprepared to receive the immigrants and the future doesn’t hold much promise.
During a University of Georgia conference on the state of Mexican immigration and integration in Georgia last month, experts discussed issues facing Hispanic immigrants.
By 2010, the state is expected to be one of the top spots for Hispanic population growth, says Rusty Brooks, associate professor at the university’s Institute for Community and Area Development.
An estimated 600,000 Hispanics currently live in Georgia.
A professor in the School of Social Work, David Boyle, says that of 5,000 degreed social workers in Georgia, he found only six Spanish speakers.
Julia Reguero de Atiles of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences says Hispanic grade-schoolers are often “coming to classrooms that are not prepared to receive them.” She also says Hispanic youngsters come to Georgia schools speaking 52 different dialects.
And the experts say there are even more problems in the ongoing immigration explosion. They say childcare, zero access to higher education for illegal immigrants, friction with working-class Blacks, and conflicts over the merits of English-only language programs are some of the problems.
“We all think about these people with a marginal economic basis,” poultry science professor Nick Dale says. “There are a lot of Latinos who are not pulling guts out of chickens.”
The university says it is trying to attain a Kellogg Foundation grant in an effort to study ways to integrate Hispanics into northeast Georgia communities.
WASHINGTON — A national student-led campaign is underway to raise awareness and opposition to a provision in last year’s Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization that would deny or delay federal financial aid to students convicted of drug offenses.
The critics charge that the provision discriminates against minorities and damages efforts to diversify campuses.
“Given the racial disparity in drug enforcement, this law will inevitably have a discriminatory impact,” says Adam J. Smith, associate director for the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that is coordinating the student effort. “It will deny an education to those for whom it is most vital — the poor, the non-White, and nonviolent young people who have had previous contact with the criminal justice system and who are trying to turn their lives around.”
According to the report Sentencing Project: 1995, only 12 percent of the nation’s population and 13 percent of the nation’s drug users are African Americans. However, they account for 55 percent of all drug convictions.
“This provision is the result of politicians grandstanding as being tough on drugs by closing doors of opportunity for young people,” says Kris Lotikar, DRCNet’s university coordinator. “Denying a young person — any person — the ability to get an education is not a policy fit for an advanced society.”
Student governments on three campuses — the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Western State College in Colorado, and Western Connecticut State College — have already endorsed the campaign’s resolution calling for a repeal of the provision.
The campaign is being organized online from DRCNet’s Web site, <www.u-net.org>.
LOWER OXFORD, Pa. — Lincoln University is considering banning fraternities and sororities on campus after a hazing incident that seriously wounded a student.
Eugene Sanders, 21, was beaten near the Lincoln campus as part of pledge activities with the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which he wanted to join.
Lincoln suspended the fraternity pending an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police, the national board of Alpha Phi Alpha, and the university, says Arnold Hence, vice president of enrollment planning and student life.
“At this point, we will review the whole Greek system on campus,” Hence says. “It would be a strong action and wouldn’t be done in haste.”
Lincoln’s reevaluation of its Greek system echoes similar proposals at other campuses. Dartmouth College recently proposed outlawing single-sex fraternities, and about a half-dozen other private Northeastern colleges have made their fraternities and sororities go coed over the last three decades.
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