NAACP Calls for Bluefield State Investigation
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia should investigate employment practices at Bluefield State College because of the school’s lack of minority faculty and staff, according to a resolution approved by state NAACP members last month. The resolution was one of several approved during the final day of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s 55th annual state convention, a two-day meeting held at Huntington’s Radisson Inn.Bluefield State was for years the only historically Black college in the United States with no Black faculty members, according to the unanimously approved resolution. The institution receives $1.1 million in federal grants annually for being a historically Black college. “The president of Bluefield State, Dr. Robert Moore, has not seriously and sincerely taken adequate steps” to hire Black professors, and the school has discouraged minority employment, according to the resolution. Last year, Bluefield professor Garret Olmsted, claimed he was fired after criticizing the administration for its failure to recruit Black students and faculty. An administrative law judge ruled in November that the school had to rehire Olmsted (see Black Issues, Nov. 26, 1998). Bluefield State at the time had two Black professors and only 205 Black students out of a student body of 2,500, according to published reports. An 11-member task force had been appointed in November 1997 to advise Moore on recruiting minority faculty and students. At that time, the school had no Black faculty or administrators (see Black Issues, June 11, 1998).
University of Georgia to Admit Student Suing Over RejectionATHENS, Ga. — The University of Georgia has decided to admit 19-year-old Jennifer L. Johnson in hopes of settling a lawsuit in which she says her application was rejected because she’s White and a woman. “It’s my understanding from the attorneys that this should render this particular lawsuit moot,” says university spokesman Tom Jackson. “We’re doing so on the advice of the attorney general and the chancellor.”Johnson’s lawsuit is the third filed against the university by Atlanta attorney Lee Parks, who says the Athens school illegally uses race as a factor in its admissions. But despite the university’s offer, Parks says Johnson plans to attend freshman orientation at Mercer University, her second choice, and adds that he does not intend to drop the suit. The lawsuit says a set of university-developed criteria called the Total Student Index penalized Johnson, who applied to the school last October. She scored 4.10 on the index, which looks at grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and a family’s educational background. To be accepted at the university, applicants must score at least 4.66 on the index. Johnson would have received an extra 0.5 of a point if she had been a minority and a 0.25 of a point if she had been male, Parks says. That would have raised her score to 4.85.
HBCU Chancellor Says Demographics of Student Body Must ChangeDURHAM, N.C. — North Carolina Central University (NCCU) must compete for the best students regardless of race in order to survive, according to Chancellor Julius L. Chambers. Last month, in his annual state-of-the-university address, Chambers told faculty and staff that the mission of historically Black schools has changed. “We no longer have a monopoly,” he said. “The pool of candidates is more diverse and more demanding. You have to realize there are outside forces and changing demographics and those changes will affect what you do, whether you exist, and how you succeed.” Chambers noted that Black students who attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University say they picked their college based on the strength of their programs and the level of success they thought they would have. Last year, approximately 83 percent of the university’s enrollment of 5,580 students were Black.“We are an institution that appeals to each and every student no matter [what their] race, religion, or gender. Not only are we constitutionally required, but we are morally required,” Chambers said. Chambers, who was named chancellor in 1993 after resigning as chief executive of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, also said his university must catch up with technology found at other North Carolina universities.“Over at UNC, they are preparing for next year where every student has to have a [laptop] computer,” he said. “Where is NCCU?”Chambers made the statement several weeks after it was announced that he will take a short leave-of-absence early this fall to undergo an as yet-undisclosed, but reportedly minor, medical procedure.
Black Lawmakers Urging Voters to Reject State LotteryMONTGOMERY, Ala. — Some Black lawmakers are speaking out against Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery plan on grounds that it excludes many poor students from scholarship grants, a problem the governor’s office says can’t be solved right away. “It hurts me to my heart to come out and say this,” says Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), a longtime supporter of a lottery, “but I can’t sit back and watch my people get nothing.” The lottery proposal goes before voters Oct. 12. Siegelman says the lottery would raise $150 million a year for college scholarships, pre-kindergarten, and school technology. What bothers Rogers is that poor students who qualify for federal tuition grants would have the value of those grants deducted from their lottery-funded scholarships. Siegelman has said that to do otherwise initially would bankrupt the program. The governor’s spokeswoman adds that a rule change maybe considered later. “We’ll start out like Georgia,” says Kristin Carvell, Siegelman’s press secretary. “We don’t want some kids to get two scholarships, while others get none. But that’s something that we’ll look at.”“I cannot support a lottery that will destroy a population who’s going to be playing it but not getting any of the benefits,” Rogers says. “I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror in the morning.” Rep. James Buskey (D-Mobile) says he also has spoken to several groups and is recommending that his constituents reject the lottery plan. “I’m not opposed to a lottery — I’m just opposed to this lottery,” he says. “I’m not for a lottery that penalizes poor people so that rich folks can go to college.”Rogers says he’s also concerned that the scholarship program would undercut enrollment at historically Black four-year colleges, where most students don’t have the grades to qualify for a HOPE scholarship. Siegelman’s proposal would give those students an incentive to attend two-year schools, where a B-average won’t be required for a scholarship, Rogers says. Rogers had hoped to meet with Siegelman in late August to win a commitment on the tuition grant issue. If an agreement is not reached, Rogers says he will step up his opposition.
Countersuit and Legislative Retaliation Added to Mississippi Valley’s ProblemsGREENWOOD, Miss. — A Greenwood attorney who was sued this summer by a fired college administrator and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor has filed a countersuit.And, a state lawmaker says his voting record next year will reflect his distress with Mississippi Valley State University over the plight of Troy Brown, the administrator who claims he was fired because he ran for public office. A. Lee Abraham Jr. says he has no idea why Brown lost his job as dean of students at Mississippi Valley State University. Brown wants his job back and claims he was fired because he would not end his Democratic candidacy and support Amy Tuck, a candidate supported by Abraham. Abraham’s suit, filed in Leflore County Circuit Court, accuses Brown of making false and defamatory statements about Abraham. It also contends Brown had the “ulterior purpose of obtaining press coverage for his political campaign and thus more votes in the primary election.”Brown finished third in the Aug. 3 Democratic primary won by Tuck, a former senator. “I think it [Abraham’s lawsuit] is a frivolous and desperate measure to divert attention from the real truth in this case,” says Brown’s attorney, John M. Mooney Jr. of Jackson. “Brown will neither be intimidated nor deterred from going forward with his federal action. This man [Brown] loves Valley and wants to go back to work there.”Mooney says the allegation Brown sued to gain publicity for his campaign “is ludicrous.” Brown’s lawsuit was filed the week before he was to have to vacate his home on the Valley campus. His lawsuit says Abraham, identified as a major supporter of Mississippi Valley, encouraged him to run but later asked him to withdraw. Meanwhile, Rep. Erik Fleming (D-Jackson), who won re-election last month, says until the college comes to terms with Brown, he will oppose Mississippi Valley’s budget and other legislation to help the historically Black school in Itta Bena. “I would be remiss in my duty as a legislator if I knowingly continued to support an institution that treats its employees in such a malicious way,” Fleming said in a letter sent to the university’s president, Dr. Lester E. Newman. Newman denies that Brown’s firing had anything to do with his candidacy and says that he “look[s] forward to defending the name and honor of the institution and myself in court.”
Preliminary Figures Indicate More Diversity at the University of TexasAUSTIN, Texas — After stepping up financial aid and recruiting efforts, the University of Texas appears to have attracted a freshman class with the same percentage of Blacks and Hispanics as 1996, the last year in which affirmative action was allowed. “We need a diverse group of students at this institution.… This is a global environment that we live in,” Dr. Augustine Garza, deputy director of admissions at the university, says. “We need experiences from all cultures, and those experiences can best happen here in the higher education environment so that people can grow and learn about other cultures.” If preliminary figures are borne out, the university enrolled a freshman class that includes 4 percent Black students, 14 percent Hispanic, 62 percent White, and 17 percent Asian American. The rest include American Indians and foreign students. The percentages for Black and Hispanic students are the same as in 1996, the Austin American-Statesman reported last month. Enrollment data won’t be final until later this month. Texas officials have worked to boost minority enrollment despite the 1996 federal court ruling, known as Hopwood, which ended consideration of race in college admissions in Texas. Among other steps, a state law automatically admits students in the top 10 percent of high school graduating classes. And, the university has increased and focused its outreach to public school students. In addition, it has begun a scholarship program for those in the top 10 percent of their class in 49 high schools in high-minority areas. “We’ve stepped it up” since Hopwood, Garza says.However, preliminary data at the upper-level schools — the master’s level business school, law school, and four medical schools — don’t show a similar rebound from the court ruling, according to the newspaper. All appear to be lower than in 1996, it reported. But Garza says those who recruit at the graduate level face more challenges. “The competition is stiffer. The eligible pool [of students] is smaller. The market is larger. You’ve got to remember, your marketplace is not just the state of Texas,” he says.
New Regents Policy Will Reach Out to HispanicsATLANTA — Georgia’s university system will make new efforts to reach the state’s growing Hispanic population under a plan approved by the Board of Regents. Steps approved last month call for more scholarships and financial aid and an aggressive recruitment policy to hire more Hispanic faculty and staff members. The plan also encourages colleges to add advanced language studies for those majoring in teacher education and social work programs. American Indians and foreign students. The percentages for Black and Hispanic students are the same as in 1996, the Austin American-Statesman reported last month. Enrollment data won’t be final until later this month. Texas officials have worked to boost minority enrollment despite the 1996 federal court ruling, known as Hopwood, which ended consideration of race in college admissions in Texas. Among other steps, a state law automatically admits students in the top 10 percent of high school graduating classes. And, the university has increased and focused its outreach to public school students. In addition, it has begun a scholarship program for those in the top 10 percent of their class in 49 high schools in high-minority areas. “We’ve stepped it up” since Hopwood, Garza says.However, preliminary data at the upper-level schools — the master’s level business school, law school, and four medical schools — don’t show a similar rebound from the court ruling, according to the newspaper. All appear to be lower than in 1996, it reported. But Garza says those who recruit at the graduate level face more challenges. “The competition is stiffer. The eligible pool [of students] is smaller. The market is larger. You’ve got to remember, your marketplace is not just the state of Texas,” he says.
New Regents Policy Will Reach Out to Georgia’s LatinosATLANTA — Georgia’s university system will make new efforts to reach the state’s growing Hispanic population under a plan approved by the Board of Regents. Steps approved last month call for more scholarships and financial aid and an aggressive recruitment policy to hire more Hispanic faculty and staff members. The plan also encourages colleges to add advanced language studies for those majoring in teacher education and social work programs. Georgia has about 475,000 Hispanics, and the number is expected to increase to about 1 million by 2010. Potentially the most controversial section of the policy is a provision calling on the board to work with the attorney general to explore admitting the children of documented workers to Georgia colleges. Students would have to reside in the state, be graduates of a Georgia high school, and meet the requirements for college admission. Under current federal law, children of undocumented workers have a right to a public high school education, but states can set their own policies for admitting them to public colleges. Some states allow them to enroll. Georgia does not. An undocumented worker is anyone who has not followed the appropriate government procedure for establishing temporary or permanent residency in the United States. Board members approved that provision with the understanding that any meetings with the attorney general would be purely exploratory and anything beyond that would require further board action.“There was no question this was the most controversial,” says Dr. Lisa A. Rossbacher, president of Southern Polytechnic State University, who chaired the task force that recommended the plan.Rossbacher says some people fear that allowing the children of undocumented workers to attend Georgia colleges would open the floodgates for more immigration and reduce the number of college placements available to Georgia citizens. But, she notes, neither fear has proven true in states that enroll those students because many such students choose to work to help support their families rather than to go to college. Also, many don’t meet the college admissions requirement. She estimates that only about 50 or 60 students would enroll if Georgia changed its policy.
UT Board Votes to Promote AP Course AccessAUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas System Board of Regents announced, last month, plans to increase the number of disadvantaged high school students taking Advanced Placement courses, according to a story in the UT Daily Texan.The AP initiative — designed to encourage more students to complete college-level courses before high school graduation — will help disadvantaged students succeed in college, Regent Raul Romero, chairman of the Special Committee on Minorities and Women and organizer of the initiative, told the student newspaper.“Disadvantaged students deserve the chance to complete college-level course work, and to build the sort of credentials that will lift the education and life prospects of thousands of young Texans,” he says.Romero says the AP program has been shown to motivate students for higher education. The initiative will provide more information concerning AP courses to students, parents, and teachers, and will help train teachers to teach AP classes.
Poor and Minority Community College Students Less Likely to Transfer to University of CaliforniaLOS ANGELES — Poor and ethnic minority students enrolled in community colleges may not be getting adequate counseling services, resulting in lower transfer rates to four-year universities, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC). Statewide, Blacks are less than half as likely as Whites to transfer from a community college to a University of California (UC) campus, and less than one-fifth as likely as Asians, according to CPEC. Last year, 293 Black students transferred from community colleges to UC campuses, while about 7,300 Whites and Asians made the move. Hispanics fared a little better than Blacks, but not much. The commission found that large numbers of disadvantaged students attend colleges that don’t place a strong emphasis on UC transfers — including some campuses that have reduced or eliminated vital counseling services. “The effort is not proactive,” says Mark Lewis, a Black student who transferred to UC-Berkeley and was recently accepted to graduate school at Harvard. “If a person happens to float into someone’s office, they might get assistance. But no one is out there, especially for the young men, giving them some kind of focus.” Community college presidents and counselors insist there is no conscious effort to keep students from the UC system. They say they’ve taken steps to improve support for disadvantaged students. But mandatory counseling for all entering students is often turned into an assembly line by ratios of 1,000 students or more to each counselor, says Charles Ratliff, deputy director of CPEC. The reasons so few Black and Hispanic community college students transfer to UC are complicated. A critical factor is the lack of college preparation in high school, especially in math and English, which can strand them in remedial classes. Another is the complexity of the UC’s admissions criteria. But success in UC transfers also appears to be a function of which of the state’s 106 community colleges a student happens to attend. Santa Monica College provides an excellent ratio of counselors to students, intensive orientations, sophisticated tracking efforts, and UC application workshops. Santa Monica College transferred 680 students to the UC system last year, most of them White or Asian. By contrast, Southwest, West Los Angeles, Trade-Tech and Compton, which combined have more students than Santa Monica — the vast majority of them Black or Hispanic — collectively transferred 45.
Bob Jones University’s Interracial Dating Ban Offends Senator COLUMBIA, S.C. — State Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Columbia Democrat and pastor, has rejected a request by Bob Jones University (BJU) to jointly campaign against video gambling, saying he wouldn’t work with a university that still bans interracial dating. In a July letter, Dr. Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist Christian school in Greenville, asked Jackson if he would help the Citizens United Against Poker campaign to kill video gambling in this November’s referendum. But even though Jackson opposes video gambling, he said he wouldn’t cooperate with the effort because of the university’s racial policies.“Some of the leading forces against video poker will have a hard time uniting forces with African American churches because the African American church has not seen them as allies in the past, and in some instances has seen them opposed to what they have been fighting for,” Jackson said. Earlier this year, Jackson and Jones met to discuss a bill Jackson sponsored that would have cut state scholarship aid to BJU students because of the school’s policies. Jackson agreed in April to suspend the bill pending the outcome of further talks with Jones and a visit with students on the BJU campus.
Millikin University Promise Tolerant, Caring AtmosphereDECATUR, Ill. — Millikin University students were told they could expect to find a more racially tolerant campus when they resumed classes late last month, school officials say. Terry Bush, Millikin’s vice president of marketing and community affairs, says the school has a new hate-crime policy and has altered campus security following allegations that Millikin is inhospitable to minorities. The hate crime policy, detailed in a revised student handbook, says that anyone who makes an expressed or implied threat to personal safety or creates an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning environment based on race, color, gender, or sexual orientation will be sanctioned by the university. Violators also could face state or federal charges. About 14 percent of Millikin’s student enrollment of more than 2,000 students are non-Whites.The policy is the result of several reported hate crimes during the spring semester. Freshman Danielle Brown was three times the victim of racist graffiti on her dormitory door and message board. One threatened her life. An investigation into those crimes is continuing with the help of the Decatur Police Department and the FBI. After the incidents, a group of students demanded the university make some changes. Although the university did not create a diversity training position, as demanded by students, several faculty members have begun taking action on the subject. Nancy DeJoy, an education professor, organized a group of 17 professors in hopes of making changes in their freshman classes. “We hope to integrate the awareness of racial and other biases — like religion, sexual preference, gender, and class — in our freshman classes,” she says. “This issue will be handled in assignments. Perhaps some classes will do surveys or interviews on campus and others document incidents of violence.” Additionally, John Mickler, director of security at Millikin, says his police force has been undergoing extensive training all summer. “We’ve spent most of summer in training on several topics including cultural diversity,” he says. “We had training in conducting investigations, report writing, and crisis management. All were related to the hate crime issue.”
NAACP Opposes Changing Name, Date Of Black College WeekendDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The local chapter of the NAACP is opposed to suggestions that the name and date of Black College Reunion be changed. Cynthia Slater, first vice president for the Daytona Beach-Volusia County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, released a statement saying another local organization acted hastily in proposing a name and date change. Representatives of Mission United, which was founded in 1992 to improve communications between Black and White residents, suggested several ways to clean up the street-party image of Black College Reunion (BCR), including changing the name to Black Cultural Reunion and suggesting an April 28 date. Slater says changing the name won’t solve the problems of BCR, which started as a reunion of Bethune-Cookman students and Florida A&M students but has grown into a three-day party drawing up to 150,000 people. “Although we commend Mission United for the concern they have regarding BCR, it is our belief that Black College Reunion under any other guise is not a substitute nor does it mend the many underlying issues,” Slater says. Lori Campbell Baker, co-chairman of Mission United’s BCR committee, says officials are surprised the suggestions generated so much controversy. “We just want to change the image of the event to one that is positive,” she says. Slater also denounced recommendations of April 28 as the weekend for next year’s BCR. “Black College Reunion is traditionally held during the second weekend of April, therefore, the second weekend in April is the weekend that the NAACP will endorse,” she says.
Delaney Sisters’ Mementos Among Artifacts Sent to St. Augustine’sRALEIGH, N.C. — Paperwork, photos, and other mementos of the Delany sisters have returned to the St. Augustine’s College campus where the famous centenarians were raised. Several months after Sadie Delany died at the age of 109, her descendants have donated to the school materials from her estate and those of her sister, Bessie, who died at 104 in 1995.“This is not just St. Augustine’s College history, but it’s the Episcopal church history, Raleigh and North Carolina’s history,” says Linda Simmons-Henry, library director at the school. “It’s just a very rich collection.” The sisters’ best-selling 1993 novel, “Having Our Say,” chronicled their lives at St. Augustine’s, where they were reared with their eight brothers and sisters. Their father, Bishop Henry Beard Delany, the principal of the college, was the first Black elected African American Episcopal priest in the United States. The sisters are buried in Raleigh’s Mount Hope Cemetery between the graves of their father and mother. In May, St. Augustine’s interim president, A. Melvin Miller, told Simmons-Henry that the Delany family was interested in donating the sisters’ papers to the college. A few weeks later, Simmons-Henry and two of her staffers were at the Delanys’ home in Mount Vernon, N.Y., sorting through a historical treasure trove. “I had no idea that the collection would be as rich as it is,” Simmons-Henry says. “This is a collection of a 100-year period of an African American family.” The collection includes photographs, letters, and correspondence. It will be sorted chronologically by an archivist, who also would put the collection on microfilm. Simmons-Henry says she expects the entire project will take at least two years to complete and cost as much as $300,000 — which she hopes to pay for through a grant.Meanwhile, the North Carolina Museum of History purchased several articles from the June estate sale, including one of Bessie Delany’s dental uniforms. Bessie Delany was the second Black woman licensed to practice dentistry in New York state. “We are tickled to have the items,” says Lisa Yarger, a curator at the museum. “The Delanys are an important Raleigh family, and their story is very important to the history of the city and the state.”
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