BI News BriefsNovember 11, 1999 |
Protest by Black Students Wins
Reprieve of Decision on Student Union
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Black students at the University of North Florida rallied for the preservation of the African American Student Union after a student government agency decided the organization was unconstitutional.
The decision last month to dissolve the African American Student Union was made by a 2-to-1 vote of the four-student judiciary court. The student body president then froze the union’s budget and ordered it to leave its campus headquarters.
But about an hour after the beginning of a student protest, student government leaders agreed to stay the course until the matter can be resolved.
The African American Student Union receives about $47,000 a year for programs aimed at 1,200 African American students who comprise about 10 percent of the university’s population and are the largest minority group on campus.
By comparison, groups that focus on other minority cultures, such as the Vietnamese and Hispanic students, will receive about $400 this year.
North Florida’s president, Dr. Anne Hopkins, met with student leaders and asked them to try and resolve the conflict themselves. The administration, she said, would help if requested.
“The whole idea behind student government is letting them learn,” she says. Student Senator Michael Wright contends the existence of the African American student union violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which requires racial classifications must serve a compelling government interest.
A formal appeal of the student judiciary opinion willl give the union about a month to make its case. LaShawn Woodburn, the director of the union, says the challenge will succeed because union events are open to all students.
UCLA Law Students Protest Against Admission Policies
LOS ANGELES — About 200 students and professors staged a walkout here late last month to protest admissions policies at the University of California-Los Angeles where only two Black students are among the law school’s freshman class.
Protesters at the two-hour teach-in urged law school admissions officials to do more to recruit ethnic minorities, especially in the wake of Proposition 209, the statewide ballot measure that bars ethnic and gender considerations in state hiring, contracting and public university admissions.
“It’s very difficult — there are times I feel isolated and excluded, an outcast from my classmates,” says Crystal James, one of the two African American students admitted among all the 286 new students this fall.
The university’s incoming law school class has 126 Whites, 66 Asian Americans, 17 Hispanics students and one American Indian. The ethnic background of the remaining 74 students was not known.
In 1996, the class that enrolled before Proposition 209, there were 19 Black students, 45 Hispanics, 48 Asian Americans, five American Indians and 188 Whites or those whose ethnicity was unknown.
Fewer ethnic minorities are being accepted but many of those who are eligible choose to attend a different college, law school officials say. Of the 233 Black students who applied this year, 18 were admitted but just two enrolled. In 1996, 399 Black students applied, 104 were admitted and 19 enrolled.
“The real world has people of color in it. You can’t teach in a segregated atmosphere — it just can’t be done,” says professor Gary Blasi.
Protesters urged the university to subsidize law school admissions test preparations for disadvantaged students and recommended minority students be given “significant decision-making power” in evaluating law school applications.
University of California system rules prohibit students from voting on the admission of other students, says law school dean Jon Varat, adding that he, too, is unhappy with the lack of diversity.
Former Central State President Challenges Arbitration Decision
WILBERFORCE, Ohio — The former president of Central State University last month challenged an arbitration panel’s ruling that would have forced him to repay about one-third of the severance pact he reached with university officials in 1995.
Dr. Arthur E. Thomas filed an appeal in Greene County Common Pleas Court contending he should not have to give back $102,286 of the $325,000 settlement. The action means the case likely will go before a jury, possibly in February.
In his appeal, attorney Larry James argued that the arbitration panel’s award “is against the manifest weight of the evidence and is contrary to law.”
But attorneys for the state want Thomas to repay the money, saying the settlement was excessive. The disputed payment is mostly for accrued vacation time and sick leave. State auditors say such payments are illegal.
Thomas has testified the time was well earned because he virtually never took sick or vacation leave and worked “from dawn to dusk” on behalf of Ohio’s lone historically Black public university.
He served as a top administrator there for 18 years, 10 as president. Thomas resigned as the university came under increasing pressure from legislators, higher education officials and then-Gov. George Voinovich.
They blamed the university’s much-publicized financial problems on Thomas. But a lengthy criminal investigation yielded no indictments and officials acknowledge there is no evidence Thomas or others lined their own pockets with university funds.
Racially Tinged Display Removed
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State University officials late last month forced an African American student to take down a display that included a racial epithet referring to Blacks less than 24 hours after it went up.
The display, said to have been erected by the student as an expression of his attitude toward his roots, was built from white plastic pipe covered with cheesecloth and had photocopied pictures of African Americans on it, university officials say.
Scattered on the ground was literature relating to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. “First, you have to have permission to erect a structure on campus. Second, we don’t condone hate messages like this,” says university spokeswoman Nancy Neff.
State Senator Says Not Enough Blacks in Nevada Medical School
CARSON CITY, Nev. — State Sen. Joe Neal has renewed his criticism of the University of Nevada School of Medicine, noting there are only 11 Blacks among nearly 1,000 students who graduated from the school since 1980.
Neal, a North Las Vegas Democrat who is Black, blames “cultural bias” for the low number of minority medical students and alleges that 90 percent of U.S. medical schools have more Blacks in their first-year class than Nevada has had in 15 years.
“The school can find very good excuses why they can’t find minority applicants,” Neal recently told members of the Regents’ Academic, Research and Student Affairs Committee. “But mostly, once you adopt a culture where you don’t think minority students qualify, you discard them.”
Dr. Joe Crowley, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, agrees that the medical school’s biggest problem is “underrepresentation of certain minorities — African Americans, Native Americans and to a lesser extent, Hispanics.”
But Dr. Steven Montoya, a member of the medical school admissions selection committee, defends the university’s numbers, saying, “We’re not admitting numbers, we’re admitting future doctors.”
Women Basketball Players Sue Over Treatment by Coach
BOSTON — Three former players on the University of Massachusetts women’s basketball team have filed a lawsuit against the school because they say their coach’s yelling, insults and obscenities made their personal lives unbearable.
Kara Trent, Nicole Vallieres and Tory Grant filed the suit late last month in U.S. District Court here in Boston, claiming that coach Joanie O’Brien’s coaching style left them humiliated and anguished.
They also contend the behavior defies the principles of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“Kara Trent came to the point where she dreaded and became fearful of playing and came to hate the game of basketball, which she had loved and played since her third grade of elementary school,” attorney Brian Woolf, who represents the three, wrote in the complaint.
“This was a hostile environment and the university didn’t do a thing about it,” Woolf says. Trent, 20, a junior studying sports management, is the only plaintiff still attending the university.
The women, teammates during the 1997-98 season, are seeking a total of $45 million in damages. University spokeswoman Kay Scanlan declined comment. O’Brien did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
Trent told her lawyer that O’Brien, 35, who is entering her ninth season with the university, would violently grab her by the jersey neck and pull her onto place on the court, and shout in her face.
Grant also complains she was the victim of sexual discrimination because the coach thought she was gay, and says she was unfairly thrown off the team in October 1998 after she was caught smoking marijuana. n
hed: White Supremacist Given Classroom Forum; Barred from Campus Distribution
MISSOULA, Mont. — Hate is good and White people who don’t believe in their own superiority are traitors to their race, the leader of the World Church of the Creator told students here last month at the University of Montana.
Matt Hale was invited to speak by sociology professor Rob Balch, who teaches a class called “Extraordinary Group Behavior,” which often focuses on the radical right. Balch, whose class will hear later this year from a Militia of Montana member and an Idaho skinhead, says he’s drawn some heat for bringing such speakers to campus but still believes students need to hear from them first hand.
“The best way to understand someone’s point of view is to actually meet them,” he says. Balch urged students to be civil and courteous to the controversial Hale, who said it was the first time he’d been permitted to speak at a university.
“I stand before you today because I love my people,” he said. “I love my culture.”
But Hale also derided Whites who don’t share his views. “The problem is White people,” Hale told students during the speech. “The problem is White people who are not interested in other White people.”
Hale, who contends race is the supreme value because it does not change, did tone down some of his usual rhetoric. He only briefly mentioned his theory that Whites are responsible for nearly every technological advance in the past century.
Even so, Hale’s philosophy soon wore thin with the students. “You’re a slave to ignorance, you punk,” one man said. Another woman marched out of the classroom after Hale said he considered every White woman and man his sister and brother.
Later in the month, Hale received a letter from officials at Northwestern University who complained that members of his group cannot distribute literature on campus without the university’s consent or a student organization’s sponsorship. Two members of Hale’s organization had blanketed the Evanston, Ill., campus with a pamphlet that contains disparaging comments about minorities.
Benjamin Smith, a former member of Hale’s group, killed former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong during a shooting spree in July.
“Northwestern University has the right to bar distribution of information on its property,” Cubbage says. “If Mr. Hale would like to challenge us in court, he is welcome to do so.”
Hale contends that Northwestern cannot discriminate against his religion because the school receives federal funds and that he will continue to distribute the materials. He says that the campus, though private, is the community’s public domain.
hed: Calif. Senate Hopeful Running on Affirmative Action, Free College Platform
SACRAMENTO – A Los Angeles Democrat running for the U.S. Senate wants to bring back affirmative action and has even written an initiative that would overturn the 1996 measure that outlawed such programs in this state.
The proposed ballot measure by Mervin Evans, a 46-year-old investment adviser, also would increase the state sales tax by 1.5 cents and use that money to make state colleges free and to better prepare poor students for a higher education.
The state’s sales tax currently ranges from 7.25 percent to 8.5 percent, depending on the jurisdiction. Increasing it by 1.5 percent would bring in about $6 billion a year, according to the state Board of Equalization.
Under his initiative, half of the money raised would be used to offset student fees for California residents at University of California, California State University and community college campuses. The other half would go to public schools for programs for poor children.
Evans is the only announced Democrat running against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the March 7 primary. He previously ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 1998. He has proposed placing the ballot initiative before voters in November 2000.
hed: State Worker Charged with Secretly Taping Female Students
COLUMBIA, S.C. ¾ Authorities here accused a state worker last month of luring female college students to his office under the pretense of an internship interview at which he secretly videotaped them.
David John Frontz, who works in the Research and Statistics department of the state Budget and Control Board, was charged with one count of aggravated assault. During the past month, authorities say, he contacted University of South Carolina students by phone and told them to come to the interview dressed in short skirts, a warrant for Frontz’ arrest says.
Frontz then used a hidden video camera to record an 18-year-old woman’s panties as she walked up the stairs for an interview, the warrant says.
hed: Student Admits Poisoning Ex-Girlfriend, Roommate
PROVIDENCE, R.I. ¾ A former graduate student here at Brown University last month admitted to stealing radioactive material from a university lab and poisoning his ex-girlfriend and her roommate.
Cheng Gu, 25, of Providence, said in Superior Court that he spiked a dish of eggs and vegetables with a spoonful of the radioactive chemical last year. Gu, a molecular pharmacology graduate, says he poisoned his ex-girlfriend Yuanyuan Xiao on more than one occasion, trying to make her sick so she would be dependent on him, according to Stacey Veroni of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Gu has pleaded no contest to one count of domestic poisoning, one count of poisoning, and one count of larceny.
The poisoning was discovered three days after Gu spiked the food. Xiao had been screened with a Geiger counter, a routine procedure before conducting an experiment using radioactive materials, when the contamination was found.
Brown’s radiation safety officers found the plate of radioactive food in the refrigerator in Xiao’s Providence apartment. Her roommate, James A. O’Brien, who had also eaten the food, was found to be contaminated as well. Neither was seriously hurt.
hed: Sainthood Campaign for Founder of Xavier Clears Major Hurdle
NEW ORLEANS ¾ Katharine Drexel [correct spelling??], a millionaire heiress who renounced Philadelphia society to become a Catholic nun working among impoverished Blacks and American Indians and who later used her fortune to found Xavier University, has cleared the last major hurdle in the process the Catholic church employs to identify saints.
A team of medical examiners could find no natural explanation for the restoration of hearing in an unidentified Pennsylvania child earlier found to be completely deaf, and whose family said they prayed to Drexel to intercede with God on their child’s behalf. If formally accepted, the healing would constitute the required second miracle the church regards as divine confirmation that a candidate is worthy of worldwide emulation.
Born in 1858, Katharine Drexel was one of three daughters of Francis A. Drexel, a wealthy international banker who guaranteed his daughters a lifetime income generated by a $14 million trust. But not long after making her debut into Philadelphia society, “Katie” Drexel entered a convent and assumed the disciplines of religious life.
Having taken a vow of poverty, Drexel gave all her income away, much of it to finance relief among Native Americans and Blacks, two disadvantaged groups to whom she devoted her career and dedicated her order of nuns. At her death in 1955 her donations amounted to about $20 million, according to her order.
In 1915, Drexel quietly purchased property in a mostly White neighborhood in New Orleans and opened a high school for Black children. The high school later became a teacher training institution and, in 1925, evolved into Xavier University.
If canonized, Drexel would become the fourth American saint, joining Mother Elizabeth Seton, an educator, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, an educator and social worker, and St. John Neumann, a 19th century bishop of Philadelphia.
hed: Nurses, Support Staff Approve Contract with Howard University Hospital
WASHINGTON ¾ Nurses at Howard University Hospital approved a three-year contract late last month that ended a day-long strike, provides for a 7 percent base pay increase and permits forced overtime only in emergencies.
“We got everything we wanted,” says Mary Jones-Bryant, chairwoman of the District of Columbia
Nurses Association, adding that the decision to strike was “agonizing” but worth it in the end. “We showed unity here.”
Donna Brock, a hospital spokeswoman, says management’s goal was to provide nurses with the pay they deserve while making sure the institution has the resources available to invest in patient care, research and new technology. “We’re confident the agreement … allows us to maintain that balance.”
The vote came after weeks of negotiations and a 12-hour strike. Union officials would not reveal the breakdown of the vote, but Bryant said the proposal received strong approval. About 100 nurses, pharmacists and other union members voted.
The 137-year-old teaching hospital has invested heavily in new technology in recent years, but staffers at the 340-bed complex have not had raises in three years, union members said.
According to hospital personnel records, 57 percent of the nursing staff earns more than $60,000 base pay.
hed: Dillard May End or Extend Hours of Curfews
NEW ORLEANS ¾ When Shambrica Johnson left her Leland, Miss., home heading for college at Dillard University, thoughts of unlimited freedom flickered through her mind.
Johnson, 18, soon realized her liberty contained a Cinderella clause: Freshmen must return to their dormitories by midnight on weekdays or face disciplinary action, ranging from a letter of reprimand to being asked to move out.
On weekends, the deadline is extended to 2 a.m.
Dillard’s curfews for sophomores, juniors and seniors are 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.
“I thought I would have more freedom in college, but it’s just like home,” Johnson said. “You have people looking over your shoulder all the time instead of giving me room to grow. We’re not babies, and we have to learn sometimes, right?”
Dillard and Xavier universities are the only colleges in New Orleans with curfew policies. And now, after years of hearing the annual protestations of first-year students, Dillard officials are debating whether to leave Xavier the sole bearer of that distinction.
“There used to be a time when the university stood in the stead of parents,” Dillard spokeswoman
Mildred Robertson says. “The expectations of the public are changing now, and we’re in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures.”
Students could find out by the end of the semester whether curfew will be extended or done away with altogether, says Janice Bartley, vice president for student affairs at Dillard.
The results of a survey recently sent out to Dillard students show the general consensus is to do away with the policy, or at the very least extend the hours, Bartley says.
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