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Noteworthy News Briefs

by Black Issues

California Governor Offers 4 Percent Plan for UC System

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In his inaugural address earlier this month, Gov. Gray Davis pledged to give the top 4 percent of students at each California high school automatic admission to the University of California (UC) system — a proposal, according to The Sacramento Bee, he framed as a diversity measure. Improving education, he says, will be the “primary mission” of his administration.
“And I will undertake it with the same sense of purpose, discipline, and focus that I learned 30 years ago, courtesy of the United States Army,” he says. “We are going to get it done.”
Davis says the proposal would provide more opportunities to minorities and students from poor schools. But some regents — including Ward Connerly, the architect of Proposition 209, which was supposed to end the state’s affirmative action policies — fear it will also lead to the enrollment of unprepared students.
The UC system currently takes the top 12.5 percent of all high school graduates statewide, an applicant pool that tends to be filled with students from affluent, top-performing high schools. Taking 4 percent from every school in the state would add 3,200 to 3,500 students to the list, says Charles McFadden, UC spokesman
The 26-member board of regents is set to vote in March on the new plan, proposed by the Board on Academic Relations with Schools. As lieutenant governor and a member of the board of regents, Davis backed the proposal. His pledge was one of very few specific mandates outlined in his inaugural address, and he spoke of the proposal’s passage as if it were a foregone conclusion.
McFadden says the proposal would allow bright students who perform poorly on the SAT verbal and math portions to have a better chance at admission. But Connerly, a regent appointed by previous Gov. Pete Wilson, says he wasn’t ready to endorse the measure.
“If you admit the top 4 percent at every high school, while that sounds good politically, the effect is that … without a doubt it does amount to a relaxing of the statewide standards,” says Connerly, who adds, “I’m on the fence, but I’m really weighing it very carefully.”
UC may need to seek more money from the Legislature to support thousands of additional students who would be guaranteed admission, although not necessarily at the campus of their choice. UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis and UCLA would likely remain the state’s elite schools. The new UC campus at Merced could help with the overflow after it opens in 2005.
The current plan emphasizes the SAT I, which focuses on math and verbal skills. The new plan would increase the weight of SAT II scores, which reflect more of what the student has learned in the classroom than general aptitude.

Moseley-Braun Gets Education Department Appointment

WASHINGTON — Carol Moseley-Braun, the former senator from Illinois who was defeated in last year’s election, was appointed earlier this month as a consultant to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
According to Education Secretary Richard W. Riley, Moseley-Braun will be responsible
for outreach efforts on school construction
issues in the department’s Office
of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs. She had
persuaded President Bill Clinton
to make school construction a major issue for his second term. The part-time position is based here in the nation’s capital.
Moseley-Braun, a one-term senator who was defeated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald, was previously approached by the White House about possibly becoming the ambassador to New Zealand. But sources told The Chicago Tribune that by staying in the country, Moseley-Braun “could make between $10,000 and $15,000 a speech” on the lecture circuit.
“This job keeps her in the country and is temporary in nature while she waits for her other options to gel,” the source says. “I don’t really think she wanted to go halfway around the world.”

Coppin State Provides Elementary School with Services

WASHINGTON — According to a report in The Washington Post, historically Black Coppin State College has been running an elementary school in Baltimore since last fall. The college is the first higher education institution in Maryland to run an off-campus public school.
Rosemont Elementary School, one of Baltimore’s poorest schools, has a 95 percent poverty rate and a 44 percent student turnover rate. All of the school’s fifth-graders failed the statewide reading test in 1997. The previous year, all the third-graders failed to reach the satisfactory level in mathematics. To combat the dismal performances, tutors from the college are working with Rosemont students who have serious academic problems.
Building maintenance was also given a top priority. Students, staff, and alumni from Coppin State have spent weekends painting and replacing carpets.

Court Says UDC Erred in Firing 125 Faculty Members

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled late last month that officials of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and the D.C. Financial Control Board violated a collective bargaining agreement when they fired 125 faculty members two years ago during a economic crisis (see Black Issues, April 17, 1997). The ruling could cost the city millions of dollars in back pay and severance pay, according to a Washington Post story.
Approximately one-third of UDC’s full-time staff was fired, leading to a lawsuit by the Faculty Association, the collective bargaining agent for the university’s faculty members. The association complained that seniority rules were not followed and that most fired faculty members were entitled to severance benefits. It also claimed that the control board had no right to interfere with labor contracts.
The three-judge panel sided with the association. In explaining the court’s ruling, Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote: “Congress did not grant the Control Board the authority to abrogate existing contracts between the District and its employees.”
The ruling means that 28 senior faculty members must be offered a chance to return to work with back pay. The District must also provide a year’s worth of severance pay to at least 85 other faculty members. Twelve other dismissed faculty members either retired or were reinstated following internal university appeals.
The control board has not yet announced if it will appeal the ruling.
At the time the dismissals occurred in 1997, UDC had a $16 million projected budget deficit. The dismissals were supposed to reduce the deficit by $8 million.
Currently, UDC appears to be on the road to financial recovery (see Black Issues, Sept. 3, 1998). But the university’s president, Dr. Julius F. Nimmons, acknowledges that another speed bump has been placed in UDC’s path.
“On balance, we are still fragile. But we are doing well in our recovery,” he says. “We are progressing and moving forward with our recovery initiatives and our plans for the future.”                

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