New Round of Fordice Hearings While Board Considers Privatizing Ole Miss
JACKSON, Miss. — U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. has told the Mississippi College Board to prepare for a new round of court hearings in the 24-year-old Ayers v. Fordice lawsuit that accuses the state of favoring White colleges over historically Black ones. But Alvin Chambliss, an attorney representing plaintiffs, says the order will do nothing to speed up desegregation at Mississippi’s eight public universities. “We had filed an appeal in the 5th Circuit [Court of Appeals] 10 days prior to his order. So it seems it’s nothing more than an attempt to show the appeals court that something is being done in the case,” says Chambliss, a law professor at Texas Southern University.And in a related development, board member James Luvene of Holly Springs has proposed making the University of Mississippi a private institution as part of the settlement in the desegregation case. In an order issued earlier this month that called for the new round of hearings, Biggers also prohibited the board from taking any action that could affect the desegregation of higher education unless it is first cleared by him. He directed the college board to prepare for hearings into disparities in equipment at schools and the awarding of scholarships tied to American College Test (ACT) scores. The judge also wants an update on how endowment money has been spent. Mississippi College Board officials say the order was unclear about how it might impact the continuing debate over expansion of the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Park into a four-year program. Biggers had blocked that move amid questions about admission standards. Chambliss wants to stop the expansion entirely and has appealed Biggers’ ruling. Pam Meyer, assistant higher education commissioner, says that although Biggers has not set dates for the hearings, officials are preparing the material he requested. The case originated in 1975, when the late Jake Ayers Sr. of Glen Allan sued the state, accusing Mississippi of neglecting its black universities — Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in 1992 that higher education in Mississippi was segregated and it ordered the state to fix it. Biggers has overseen those efforts. According to college-board figures, $40 million has been spent on Ayers-related matters since the Supreme Court ruling. A majority of that has gone to endowments and scholarships at HBCUs.
ATLANTA — The percentage of students who retained their HOPE scholarship has dropped 4 percent, a decline educators partially blame on potential grade inflation in high school. The Georgia Student Finance Commission, which runs the HOPE scholarship program, released HOPE retention rates last month for the 1997-98 year that showed 36 percent retention rates in the 65 schools that qualify for HOPE. The retention rate was 40 percent in the previous year. The commission said it did not distinguish between students who remain in school after failing to re-qualify for HOPE and those who drop out of school for another reason. Some high schools could be boosting unqualified students’ grades in an effort to get them the scholarship, says John Trainer, president of the Association of Private Colleges and Universities of Georgia. The scholarship pays all tuition and fees at state public universities or colleges for high school students with a “B” average and $3,000 a year for students attending selected private schools in Georgia. Students must maintain a “B” average once in college to retain the scholarship, which is funded entirely by the state lottery. But beginning in 2000, says Glenn Newsome, executive director of the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the HOPE scholarship will only count core curriculum courses toward the “B” average necessary to qualify. “They’ll be better prepared,” Newsome says. For the first time in the six-year history of the program, the retention rates also included a state-by-state breakdown. Among the state’s four-year schools, historically Black Savannah State College had the lowest retention rate at 13 percent. The University of Georgia, the state’s largest public school, had the best HOPE retention rate at 56 percent, but that was down from 65 percent a year ago.
WASHINGTON — Mayor Anthony Williams apologized to more than 500 students and faculty at the University of the District of Columbia last month for failing to consult with them before taking steps to move their school. “I do apologize,” Williams said. “Before proposals are broached … they ought to be discussed with the university.” The mayor stopped short of dismissing his idea to form a commission to weigh the benefits of moving the four-year, land-grant university from its present location in an affluent section of Northwest Washington to an impoverished section of Southeast Washington. Williams initially said he believed such a move would help revitalize the city’s poorest neighborhood and allow the city to earn additional revenue by leasing space in the high-rent Northwest neighborhood (see Black Issues, April 1, 1999). But after Williams included the proposal in his fiscal 2000 budget last month, he learned that the campus is owned by the federal government, which granted the city the right to use it for educational purposes only. Despite that finding, the mayor said a move could still be good for the city and the school. “I believe that relocation of the University of the District of Columbia is a good idea, but I also believe it’s not something you ought to force on the university,” Williams says. It’s unlikely the mayor could persuade students and faculty that such a move is in their interest, says UDC President Dr. Julius R. Nimmons Jr., who explained, “It’s not sellable to the university. It is dead.” Students applauded the mayor’s decision to back away from the proposal.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Lester Earl may be alive and well in Kansas, but his ghost haunts the Louisiana House of Representatives. Members voted 87-10, last month, to make student athletes — as well as boosters, agents, and others — eligible for jail time when money or goods change hands and the result is NCAA sanctions against a Louisiana school. Earl was recruited and signed by Louisiana State University but later transferred to Kansas after a falling out with then-Tiger coach Dale Brown. He made numerous allegations that he and his family received illegal payments and services. The allegations resulted in sanctions against LSU, including a loss of scholarships, but no loss of eligibility for Earl. Rep. William Daniel (D-Baton Rouge) sponsored the bill, which still needs approval by the state Senate. “This bill is about taking responsibility for your own actions,” he says. Daniel’s 20-page bill applies to college alumni groups, boosters, booster clubs, agents, or other parties offering cash or anything worth more than $500 to an athlete or the athlete’s relatives. Criminal penalties kick in if the NCAA — or any similar organization to which the college belongs — finds the payments to be in violation of its rules, resulting in sanctions against the school or a loss of an athlete’s eligibility. The athletes themselves, or their relatives, would face up to six months in prison and fines of up to $500 for receiving the money or items of value. A range of harsher penalties, including a year in prison and $5,000 in fines would apply to agents, boosters or others who make the payments. Agents who sign an athlete to a contract and fail to notify the school he attends within 72 hours, or before the athlete’s next game, whichever comes first, could be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to a year.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M University (FAMU) stands to lose approximately $3.75 million in funding because of a change in the way university students are counted in the state budget, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.Lower-than-expected enrollments in FAMU’s junior and senior classes and graduate schools are expected to cost the university more than $3 million in state funds. And if Florida decides to stop underwriting “alternative admissions” for out-of-state students who are considered unqualified for college admittance, FAMU could lose another $711,000 next fiscal year, according to Dr. James H. Ammons, the institution’s provost.“What you have to remember about Florida A&M is [that] our historic mission and … state legislation and board of regents rules allow us to serve students who do not meet the first-time admission requirements,” Ammons told the newspaper. “This alternative admission is being done as part of our mission.”Under the state’s per-student funding formula, universities can be 5 percent below budgeted enrollment without losing funds. If enrollment dips below that level, the institutions lose the difference in funding. There are no provisions to compensate institutions that exceed their projected levels.The past three years, an institution’s students were classified either undergraduate or graduate. This year, there are three classifications: lower-level undergraduate, freshmen and sophomores; upper-level undergraduate, juniors and seniors; and graduate. The pending state budget provides $6,392 for each lower-level undergraduate, $9,415 for each upper-level undergraduate, and $15,219 for each graduate student.In last year’s budget, FAMU received funds for 3,353 lower-level students and enrolled 4,160 of them. However, the university received funds for 3,657 upper-level students but only 3,223 enrolled. Similarly, FAMU received funds for 756 graduate students but only 666 enrolled. After allowing for the 5 percent permissible shortfall, this year’s FAMU allocation would be approximately $3.1 million lower than budgeted.
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Walter L. Williams, a member of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees for whom the school’s basketball arena is named, has decided to resign after making a racial remark during an April 7th speech. Williams said in an address to the Pirate Club’s Cape Fear chapter that there is a “[n….r] in the woodpile” preventing victory if the East Carolina men’s basketball team doesn’t improve under a new head coach. ECU recently hired Bill Herrion to coach the team. Ben Ruffin, chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, who is Black, called for Williams’ resignation. “It was really unthoughtful and insensitive and just out of character,” he says of Williams’ remark. “I feel bad for him that a statement like that was made.” Gov. Jim Hunt accepted Williams’ resignation via telephone. Williams, 69, says he regrets the statement and apologizes to anyone who was offended by it. “It was not made in a racial aspect,” he says. “My age, you grow up hearing that. To me, a lot of times it’s said as a definition of sorriness. It doesn’t have to be Black or White.” But, Black students at East Carolina University have demanded a published apology. And, they have also asked that his former seat go to a Black woman. ECU’s basketball facility, Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, is named after Williams and his wife Marie, who are both ECU alumni. The Williamses endowed two men’s basketball position scholarships. Through Trade Oil Co., the Williams family gave the first-ever $1 million gift in support of ECU athletics.
JONESBORO, Ark. — The Arkansas State University (ASU) Board of Trustees voted to give tuition breaks to American Indians who have ancestral links to Arkansas. The board agreed to limit tuition for some Native Americans, whether Arkansas residents or not, to the same rates paid by Arkansas residents. Full-time undergraduate students from out of state now pay $2,796 a semester, while in-state students pay $1,092. Graduate students from outside Arkansas pay $3,468 a semester, compared with in-state tuition of $1,380. The new policy will apply to American Indians who are descendants of tribes that are native to Arkansas or who passed through Arkansas on the Trail of Tears — the forced displacement of Indians from the nation’s Southeast during the 1830s. The measure is an effort “to honor and respect Native Americans,” a board resolution says. ASU President Dr. Leslie Wyatt says fewer than 1 percent of the school’s 10,364 students are American Indians.“We would like to see that number increase,” he says. “We are one of the few universities in America with a title reflecting that — the ASU Indians. The Native American is part of this place, this region.” The board also voted to give tuition breaks to international students caught up in currency devaluations that significantly raise their college costs in the currencies of their home countries.The cap on tuition increases for international students followed enrollment declines among such students of 10 percent in 1997 and 18 percent in 1998, according to ASU staff. The decline appeared closely associated with foreign currency devaluations, the board was told. Such devaluations increase the amount of money a student has to raise in his own country to be able to afford to come to ASU.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — For a group representing Alaska’s Black police officers, getting more minorities into the Anchorage Police Department (APD) comes down to getting out the word to the right people. The Alaska Black Law Enforcement Association (ABLE) recently mailed out a letter to more than 100 historically Black and minority serving colleges and universities in search of qualified candidates. “If you have an idea of a certain goal, you certainly don’t sit on your butt and wait for somebody else to do it,” says Denise Rollins, an APD officer and ABLE’s president. The letter is accompanied by four pages of general information about APD that point out the four-day work weeks and the financial upside of wearing a badge in Anchorage — $23 an hour base pay after one year, among the highest police wages in the country. But the letter is meant to suggest that the department is doing an inadequate job in its recruiting, Rollins says. “I don’t look at it as a replacement,” she says of the parallel effort. “It’s a supplement. It’s a more formal way to say, ‘Hey guys, there’s jobs up here.'” Anchorage police acknowledge that the department, like others around the country, has had trouble attracting qualified Blacks and other minorities. “It’s been an ongoing problem. You have to continually recruit,” says Chief Duane Udland, who adds that he has no problem with ABLE’s letter. “We often ask minority officers to be recruiters.” Wray Kinard, the department’s personnel director, says that as of March 31, Anchorage employed 339 police officers — of which 19 are Black, 12 each are Hispanic and Asian, and eight Native American. Minorities comprised about 15 percent of the Anchorage police force, while census figures show that the city’s population of 260,000 is approaching 25 percent minority. The ABLE letter was sent to 106 U.S. colleges and universities, along with mostly Black fraternities and sororities, and a handful of Black law-enforcement groups, says APD Sgt. Tyron Guillory, a member of ABLE’s recruiting committee. ABLE is hoping the letters will drum up 300 to 400 qualified applicants, he says.
SEATTLE — Some students at the University of Washington (UW) have formed what they call a “multicultural think tank” to maintain the school’s diversity in the wake of anti-affirmative action Initiative 200. The think tank will come up with a list of proposals to encourage and prepare minority high school graduates to apply to the university. “The first year after something like Initiative 200 is the biggest time to decide what happens for the future,” says Tyrone Porter, a doctoral student in bioengineering and think-tank member. “I didn’t want to just sit around and not see things really going on.”I-200, passed by voters in November, prohibits the consideration of race and gender in state government contracting, hiring, and college admissions. At the UW, which had considered race in admissions before I-200, preliminary figures show a decline in minority applications, and administrators fear that will translate into lower minority enrollments. The think-tank members’ ideas include sending teams of UW students to area high schools, teaching teen-agers good study habits, and helping them prepare for college-entrance tests. The think tank planned to present its ideas to UW board members late last month.“The biggest thing is students going out and being the primary ambassadors for the school,” Porter says. “I don’t think that’s being done on a regular basis right now.” The university is developing its own outreach plan to maintain diversity among UW students. Ideas being considered include placing UW counselors in some high schools, recruitment mailings, and working more closely with community groups.
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