Reverse-Discrimination Claim Thrown Out by Federal Judge
ATLANTA — A federal judge lambasted the University of Georgia for using race as a factor in its current admissions policy, but threw out a White applicant’s claim that the school rejected him because of race. Judge B. Avant Edenfield said the student would not have been admitted to the school regardless of race. However, the judge criticized the university, saying the school “cannot constitutionally justify the affirmative use of race in its admission decisions. “The record shows, quite simply, that … UGA prefers one applicant over another based solely on race,” Edenfield, of the U.S. District Court in Savannah, wrote in his July 6 ruling. The suit, filed in 1997 by Craig Green and his Atlanta attorney Lee Parks, said the state university system uses racial quotas to illegally segregate public colleges and universities. Although his client’s claim of discrimination was thrown out, Parks said that he was encouraged by Edenfield’s remarks. “The ball is now in the university’s court. Are they going to continue this program in the face of this ruling or not?” says Parks, who adds he would consider another suit if the university does not change its policy. The university’s admission policy uses the same academic standards for all students regardless of race. Borderline applicants, who make up about 25 percent of freshman admissions, get extra points for being minorities, as do applicants whose parents are alumni or who live in rural or poor areas of the state. Edenfield described the policy as “race counting — where non-White applicants literally are awarded ‘racial bonus points.'” University officials justified the system as a way to diversify the campus, where Blacks make up 6.2 percent of the student body. And University System Chancellor Stephen Portch says that UGA will continue efforts to have a diverse student body. “Our state’s future economy depends on the University System of Georgia being accessible to all qualified Georgians, so we will continue to work … to explore all of the options that will enable UGA to have an inclusive student body,” he says. Edenfield rejected Green’s claims that he was denied admission to the 1997 freshman class because he was White. The judge ruled that Green could not challenge the policy because his academic record was not good enough to gain admittance to the Athens school.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund Gets $50 Million GiftINDIANAPOLIS — The Lilly Endowment has offered a $50 million grant to the San Francisco-based Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which provides college scholarships to Hispanic students. The gift is believed to be the largest ever pledged to any Hispanic organization, according to Sara Martinez Tucker, HSF’s president and chief executive. Tucker says Hispanics have one of the lowest graduation rates among all U.S. ethnic groups, with about 9 percent graduating from four-year colleges. Her fund’s aim is to double that percentage. The Lilly Endowment — the charitable fund started by the Indianapolis-based drug company Eli Lilly and Co. — will give the scholarship fund $45 million up front. It has offered another $5 million if HSF raises an additional $5 million by the end of 2001. The bulk of the gift, $37.5 million, will be spent on direct aid for students. This spring, the Hispanic fund gave $3.52 million to 2,600 students. With the endowment’s help, the fund will give $12 million each year to 6,000 students.
Edley Leaves President’s Race Relations Project BOSTON — Frustrated by delays in President Clinton’s book on race relations, Harvard University Law School Professor Christopher F. Edley Jr., who has been one of the president’s top advisers on race-related issues and was ghostwriting the book, has quit the project. Edley sent the president a note last month saying he would cooperate if Clinton were to ask him. But, the note said, he was “going ahead with other projects in my life.” “The basic message is that the ball is in his court,” Edley told The Boston Globe. The book, tentatively titled One America, had been scheduled for publication in April. White House wrangling over affirmative action and other issues has fueled delays. “I didn’t want to continue having policy debates with the White House staff that could go on interminably,” says Edley. “I have exhausted my patience with that exercise.”Clinton himself has alluded to problems with Edley’s 200-page draft of the book. “Chris gave me his draft, then the staff looked at it and talked about where it was or wasn’t consistent with present policies we are pursuing,” Clinton said in a June 25 news conference. The president said the Kosovo crisis interfered with the time he could devote to the book, but he pledged to complete it. “I simply haven’t had the time to give it the effort that it deserves,” Clinton says.
ETS Concerns Put Crimp in Alabama’s Teacher-Testing PlanMONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Educational Testing Service (ETS), concerned about how one of its tests might be used, is holding up a plan that was supposed to allow the state to assess prospective teachers without racial bias. Alabama has not tested new teachers since 1985, when tests were discontinued because of a lawsuit filed by Black students and Alabama State University. The exams were challenged as being racially unfair and because graduates of historically Black colleges and universities had higher failure rates than graduates of traditionally White colleges. Under a plan given tentative approval by a federal judge, the Department of Education planned to use the New Jersey-based testing service’s PRAXIS I exam, which is used by more than 20 states. The state board of education would determine the passing score, in consultation with a committee dominated by the plaintiffs from the 1980s case. “We are sympathetic with the plight of Alabama right now, but we’re also concerned with being able to rationally, sensibly, and calmly discuss the issue of test development,” says Mari Pearlman, an ETS vice president. “We’re not sure under the circumstances of the consent decree that we feel we can do the kind of work we need to do to uphold our own technical standards.” The proposed process of deciding whether the test is unbiased does not meet ETS’ standards, she says. And, she says, the state’s oversight committee would be too heavily weighted with people picked by the plaintiffs. Additionally, the legal standards the test would have to meet are rooted in employment discrimination law, which Pearlman says is an inappropriate standard. “For all of these reasons, we are reluctant to engage in licensure testing under the current circumstances in Alabama,” she says. State Superintendent Ed Richardson says the lack of an agreement with ETS for the multimillion-dollar contract is one reason the department will ask other test-makers to submit proposals. State law also requires it. And Gov. Don Siegelman says he was aware of the company’s concerns and believes they could be worked out. But a lawyer for Black prospective teachers was less optimistic. “In all of the discussions … I talked about a specific test, and that test was Praxis,” Donald Watkins says, adding that if Praxis is eliminated as an option, “it would certainly put a big question over the entire agreement.”
City Excused from Lawsuit Brought by Hampton CoachesLUBBOCK, Texas — A judge removed the city of Lubbock from a $30 million civil rights lawsuit filed by the women’s basketball coach of Hampton University, her husband, and an assistant coach. But he allowed the claims to stand against individual police officers and paramedics. The suit, filed April 19, alleges racial bias by police in the wrongful arrest of the three last Nov. 16 outside a Wal-Mart store. Hampton was in Lubbock for a basketball game against Texas Tech, but the game was canceled because of the incident (see Black Issues, Dec. 10, 1998) . U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings rejected allegations the trio made against the city of Lubbock under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. He said that, under the act, the plaintiffs must have received services from the entity they are accusing, and that didn’t happen in this case. Cummings ruled the city of Lubbock is immune from the claims of slander, libel, defamation, and emotional distress mentioned in the lawsuit. But the judge said individual police officers and paramedics cited in the lawsuit have no such immunity. He also dismissed two allegations that assistant coach Vanetta Kelso, who was pregnant, received inadequate medical care at University Medical Center, but allowed a third claim to remain in the lawsuit.Kelso was detained along with head coach Patricia Bibbs and her husband, Ezell Bibbs, after a woman complained that someone had scammed her. The three, who were handcuffed and held for several hours, insisted upon their innocence. No charges were filed after a review of the store’s security tapes showed that none of the three had any contact with the woman. The lawsuit alleged that police detained them because they are Black. It also contends police violated the constitutional rights of due process, equal protection, and protection from unreasonable and illegal arrests, searches, and seizures. Kelso claims she was humiliated, embarrassed, and threatened by an emergency worker at the University Medical Center in Lubbock because she vomited. The worker threatened to stuff a towel in her mouth, the lawsuit said. The suit sought $2.5 million for each plaintiff for past and future loss of wages, medical expenses, pain, and mental anguish — plus punitive damages of $7.5 million for each plaintiff.
Four Norfolk State Coaches Leave Following AuditNORFOLK, Va. — Four members of the Norfolk State University Athletics Department, including the head basketball and head track coaches, will not return to the historically Black institution next year because a current audit found irregularities in the department’s travel accounts.Head basketball coach Melvin Coleman, associate basketball coach Erik Rashad, and assistant track coach Simon Hodnett all resigned their positions. Head track coach Steve Riddick will not have his contract renewed.The problems were discovered during the university’s regular institutionwide audit that occurs every two years. This audit began in November. University officials were not at liberty to disclose the amount of money involved because the investigation is not concluded.“To our surprise there were these travel irregularities in our Athletics Department,” Larry Curtis, associate vice provost for student affairs, says. “Being a state university — a state agency — we are taking the appropriate action as recommend by the [commonwealth’s] Attorney General’s office to bring this thing to closure.”
Professor Sues, Citing Discrimination in Salary Dispute BOULDER, Colo. — University of Colorado Spanish Professor Luis Gonzalez-del-Valle, whose $102,672 annual salary is the highest in his department, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school and Peter Spear, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, seeking more than $825,000. The suit, filed in district court, alleges Gonzalez-del-Valle’s career was ruined because he is Cuban. It claims Gonzalez-del-Valle and Spear tangled over issues that concern the college’s Spanish and Portuguese Department in 1996. It seeks $525,000 in lost wages and opportunities and $300,000 in damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Funding for the department was cut by $100,000 as part of a campuswide budget-tightening plan, and Gonzalez-del-Valle was denied summer pay he had been promised and a salary adjustment he felt was due him. Gonzalez-del-Valle’s suit says his efforts to get a new job elsewhere stalled when people called the university for references. He served as chairman of the department until the end of 1998. Despite his six-figure salary, the suit says compensation guidelines indicate Gonzalez-del-Valle’s salary is almost $30,000 below what it should be.
Federal Financial Aid Eludes Many of California’s Poor StudentsLOS ANGELES — Many poor community college students in California fail to apply for federal financial aid, possibly because they misunderstand the application process, receive bad advice, or don’t know they are eligible, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.“It’s not a surprise. We have always known the lowest-income kids understand the financial aid system the least,” Tom Mortenson, senior scholar at the Center for Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, says of the analysis of selected school records that show tens of thousands of students who were eligible for aid did not receive it. Students at four-year schools are likely to fill out financial aid forms when they enroll. But at community colleges — where many poor and minority youths attend because of lower costs — the application process is less certain, according to the Times account. Often, even students who are eligible for fee waivers are unsure how to apply, the report said. One study, based on information colleges provide to qualify for federal vocational funds, shows that nearly 100,000 students enrolled in California community colleges last year were poor enough to be on welfare but did not receive Pell Grants, the primary form of federal grant for low-income students.Another analysis showed that about 33,500 students in the Los Angeles area were likely to qualify for Pell Grants but only 22,563 received them this year. However, it is unclear how many of those students may have been disqualified for aid based on reasons unrelated to income.
Boston Board Abandons School Busing BOSTON— With a school system where the vast majority of pupils now are minorities, this city’s school board voted 5-2 last month to end the desegregation practice known as busing after 25 years.Under Superintendent Thomas Payzant’s plan, Boston parents would still get to choose where they want to send their children to school. Race, however, would not be a consideration. The criteria would include the proximity of the child’s home to the school, whether the child has siblings there, and results of a yearly school choice lottery. The policy would take effect in 2000.In the mid-1970s, Boston erupted in violence over court-ordered busing to desegregate public schools. As Whites have moved out of the city, a burgeoning immigrant population has moved in and the school system has become 85 percent minority. In June of this year, a group of White parents filed a lawsuit alleging that the 1974 busing policy discriminates against their children by denying them access to their chosen schools.
Report at Odds with President’s Teacher Certification PolicyWASHINGTON — A new study has found that high school students whose teachers have emergency teaching certificates perform about as well in mathematics and science as students whose teachers hold regular teaching credentials, according to a story in The Washington Post. However, the study also notes the importance of teachers specializing in the subjects they teach.The findings regarding emergency teaching certificates, based on the test scores of a national sample of high school seniors and sophomores, runs contrary to the assumptions of a Clinton administration proposal to require states to stop issuing emergency teaching certificates as a condition for receiving federal education aid. The emergency teaching certificates are usually issued by states to meet shortages of classroom instructors. After President Bill Clinton called for such a ban in his State of the Union address this year, the administration proposed giving states four years to dramatically scale back emergency certification of teachers.“Contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science students who have teachers with emergency credentials do no worse than students whose teachers have standard teaching credentials, all else being equal,” Dan D. Goldhaber, a labor economist who serves on the Alexandria, Va., school board concluded in the report.Released last month by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Better Teachers, Better Schools also concluded that students whose teachers have college degrees in math or have been specifically certified to teach math score significantly higher on standardized tests than students whose teachers did not specialize.
Black Conservative Bolts Virginia’s Education CouncilRICHMOND, Va. — William B. Allen, a Black conservative who headed a federal civil rights commission during the Bush administration, abruptly resigned last month as executive director of the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV), citing unspecified “professional reasons,” council spokesman G. Paul Nardo said. Allen surprised council members by announcing his resignation after meeting with them behind closed doors for about 90 minutes, Nardo said. The resignation came during the council’s regular meeting in Norfolk. “It was a shock. It was news to me and everyone else there,” Nardo said. Allen did not elaborate on his reasons for quitting, but indicated nobody had pressured him to resign, SCHEV officials said. The council’s June 1998 hiring of Allen was controversial from the beginning. He has been an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, and a newspaper quoted him shortly after he was hired as saying the state should re-examine its support of historically Black colleges. Allen said his remarks had been misunderstood. More recently, Allen has been a lightning rod for criticism from legislators who dislike SCHEV’s plan to base college funding on performance measures, including student graduation and retention rates. The council plans to recommend legislation to implement performance-based funding during the 2000 General Assembly.
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