25 Legal and Legislative Milestones - Higher Education

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25 Legal and Legislative Milestones

by Diverse Staff

Mississippi Valley State students protest during 1992 Fordice proceedings.

This timeline reflects some of the most significant legal and legislative milestones that have influenced higher education over the 25 years that Diverse: Issues In Higher Education, formerly Black Issues In Higher Education, has been in print. The legal battles have primarily involved the settlement of desegregation cases and the use of race and gender in scholarships and university admissions. More recent changes include attacks on affirmative action, with Michigan and Nebraska bringing the number of states banning race- and gender-conscious preferences to four. The election of Barack Obama to the nation’s highest office in the land may prove pivotal in unintended ways with some pundits using Obama’s success to bolster arguments that affirmative action is no longer necessary. What other challenges will the higher education community face 25 years from now? Count on Diverse to share such milestones with you.

1986: Title III in the Higher Education Act is amended to include Part B — the amendment to be known as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Act — substantially increasing Title III funding to HBCUs.

1989: A federal appeals court revives the Adams desegregation case, requiring the U.S. Department of Education to monitor the desegregation of public colleges in all states that had a legally mandated segregation system of higher education. In 1987, a federal judge had dismissed the case, which for nearly 15 years forced the Southern and border states to submit plans to desegregate their colleges.

1990: Michael Williams, head of the U.S. Department of Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, announces that it is illegal for colleges to restrict scholarships based on race or ethnicity. Following protests from colleges, the administration reexams the issue yet later adopts a policy to restrict such scholarships.

Supporters of affirmative action, Candyce Phoenix, 18, left, and Aaron Nelson, 20, from Washington, D.C., rally in front the Supreme Court after the ruling on the use of affirmative action in college admissions on June 23, 2003.

1992: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Ayers v. Mississippi that Mississippi has done enough to eliminate segregation in its public universities. The lawsuit was filed in 1975 by the late Jake Ayers, the father of a Black college student who accused the state of neglecting its three historically Black colleges and universities. The court orders a new trial in the case to produce another desegregation plan. The lawsuit continues as Ayers v. Fordice.

1992: The Higher Education Act is amended to allow Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) to be recognized as an approved program under Title V. The amendment marked the first official federal appropriation made specifically for HSIs, schools with a full-time undergraduate enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic, of which half must be low-income and 25 percent first-generation collegians.

1994: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in Podberesky v. Kirwan that publically-funded scholarships designated only for Black students are no longer permissible in the state of Maryland and other 4th Circuit Court states. The decision had a chilling effect on race-conscious scholarship programs around the nation.

1995: The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Adarand Contractors Inc. v. Peña holds that federal affirmative action programs involving the use of race as a basis for preferential treatment are lawful only if they can withstand federal courts’ “strict scrutiny.” The case, which limits the use of preferences based on race or ethnicity in federal programs, prompts colleges and universities to examine their participation in “set aside” and minoritygrant programs. 1995: Federal District Court Judge Harold Murphy’s decision in Knight v. Alabama mandates the creation of Whites-only scholarships at Alabama State University to desegregate the school. The decision is later challenged by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights on behalf of a Black student. The parties involved agreed to end the case in 2006 with an assortment of enhancements for HBCUs. The state approved a six-fold increase in need-based aid for students, regardless of race. 1995: President Bill Clinton delivers the “Mend It, Don’t End It” speech defending affirmative action. His speech provides critical moral and political support for affirmative action during a period of heightened attacks by critics. Months prior to the speech, Clinton had ordered a review of all federal programs involving affirmative action.

1995: The University of California Board of Regents passes SP-1, a ban on race- and gender-conscious affirmative action policies in admissions and hiring in the university system.

1996: California’s Proposition 209 — the anti-affirmative action referendum — passes, imposing a ban on race- and gender-conscious affirmative action on all state institutions.

1996: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decides in Hopwood v. Texas that race cannot be used in admissions decisions, causing underrepresented minority enrollment to plummet at Texas schools.

1997: Two lawsuits are filed against the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor challenging both the undergraduate and law schools’ admissions policies (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger). In Gratz v. Bollinger, which was filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights, two White students, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, sue the University of Michigan after being denied admission to the university’s undergraduate college. The lawsuits charge the university and law school with reverse discrimination.

1998: Washington state’s I-200 passes, imposing a ban on race- and gender-conscious affirmative action policies.

2000: The Georgia Appeals Court rules in favor of White plaintiffs that claim the University of Georgia used race as a factor in admissions.

2001: University of California regents repeal their ban on affirmative action, hoping to send a welcoming message to minority students. The move is largely symbolic since California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, which continues to prohibit race-conscious policies in the state.

2002: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy in admissions to the law school (Grutter v. Bollinger), reversing a lower court ruling and upholding the university’s position that it has a compelling interest in achieving a diverse student body.

2002: A federal judge approves a desegregation plan for Mississippi’s universities, signaling an end to the 27-year-old legal battle. Mississippi lawmakers pledge to fulfill the requirements of the settlement, expected to cost more than $500 million.

Mona Hall of Detroit was one of hundreds of people gathered outside the Supreme Court hours ahead of oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action case on April 1, 2003.

2003: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions policy, which uses a point-based system for applicants, while still allowing the consideration of race. In addition, the court upholds the law school’s admissions policy, which used a less mechanical admissions formula.

2006: The state of California prevails in a lawsuit challenging Assembly Bill 540, a provision that allows undocumented immigrant students who attended and graduated from a California high school and have resided in the state for at least three years to receive in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. It is currently under appeal.

Rita Sanders Geier was the original plaintiff in a 1968 lawsuit seeking to eliminate Tennessee’s dual system of higher education.

2006: The Geier v. Alexander desegregation case, filed in 1968, comes to an end with the determination that Tennessee had successfully dismantled its dual — one for Blacks, one for Whites — system of higher education.

2006: Michigan becomes the third state to ban race- and gender-conscious affirmative action policies.

2007: The U.S Supreme Court, ruling 5-4, limits the use of race in school assignments in the consolidated case of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The decision prohibits public school districts from assigning students to schools solely for the purpose of achieving racial integration, and the court declined to recognize racial balancing as a state interest.

2008: A referendum to ban racial and gender preferences is approved by Nebraska voters, but fails in Colorado. Ward Connerly, the former University of California regent behind the bans in California and Michigan, set out to put the issue to voters in five states, but affirmative action proponents in Arizona, Missouri and Oklahoma fought to keep it off the ballot.

2009: The Texas state Legislature approves limits on the Top 10 percent rule guaranteeing state college admission to any Texan who finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Passed in 1997, the law was intended to boost diversity on college campuses after a federal court banned affirmative action in admissions. However, with the vast majority of spots at the University of Texas at Austin going to those students, officials had little discretion to admit other talented students. Lawmakers agree to cap automatic admissions to 75 percent of the freshman class at UT-Austin, starting in 2011.



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