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by Black Issues

Morgan State Blocks Competing Doctoral Programs

BALTIMORE  —  New doctoral programs at Baltimore-area public universities have been put on hold at the urging of Morgan State University officials, prompting critics to claim the school is using its historically Black status to block competition from other schools.
The first doctoral programs at Towson University and the University of Baltimore, initially approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, were put on hold when Morgan State officials objected.
Morgan officials say they were trying to avoid duplication of programs already available at their institution.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, currently conducting an assessment of the integration of the state’s higher education system, has backed Morgan’s objections.
That support is due to a 1992 Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Fordice, a Mississippi case ruling that says historically Black institutions must not suffer undue damage when formerly segregated university systems, such as Maryland’s, are integrated.
But Morgan critics lash back that the school remains largely Black, while other historically Black schools are being absorbed by state systems that have been integrated.
“Morgan has effectively, because of what I would say is a total misinterpretation of the Fordice decision, been able to say ‘No’ to many programs” at other schools, says Jack Fruchtman, a political scientist who chairs the faculty senate at Towson University.
The issue is duplication, not race, says Morgan State’s president, Dr. Earl S. Richardson.
“It is one of unnecessary duplication and the extent to which that is not good public policy,” he says. “It is in compliance with the law.”
Richardson says that if Morgan is to become a more diverse institution, it needs exclusive programs. He says that competition from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University and the University of Baltimore drain possible non-Black students away from Morgan.
“If you build it, they will come,” he says, implying that some other colleges oppose Morgan’s plans because they fear losing their talented Black students to Morgan.
 

UMass Senate Phases Out Minority Set-Asides

AMHERST, Mass. — Student senators at the University of Massachusetts have voted to stop setting aside a share of campus government seats for minority students.
Currently, 13 percent of the university’s undergraduate student senate seats are reserved for Asian, Hispanic, Black and American Indian students.
The practice was instituted in the wake of a 1986 campus brawl between Black and White students.
Calling the quota practice unfair, the senate voted 40-6 last month to start phasing out the set-asides over a two-year period. The share will remain at 13 percent next school year, and drop to 5 percent in 2001- 02.
By 2002-03, the only minority senators will be those elected in campus-wide voting. The minority caucus members have been appointed rather than elected.
As part of a compromise with minority senators, the senate voted to create a new executive position, secretary of diversity issues. Senators also passed a motion to create a diversity issues committee.


UVA Officials Dispute Web Site’s Admissions Predictor

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A think tank that has criticized the University of Virginia for favoring Black applicants over Whites has posted an “admissions predictor” on its Web site that claims to show an applicant’s odds of getting into the school based on various factors, including race.
However, university officials dispute the value of the predictor offered by the Washington-based Center for Equal Opportunity. Louise Dudley, a school spokeswoman, says that the analysis fails to take into account such things as extracurricular activities and advanced placement courses.
On its Web site, <www.ceousa.org>, the conservative center invites students to list their SAT scores, class ranking, sex, whether they live in Virginia and whether their parents attended the university. The site then breaks down a student’s chances of admission to the school last year by ethnicity, showing that Blacks and Hispanics had a much higher probability of getting in than did Asians and non-Hispanic Whites.
Linda Chavez, president of the center, told The Washington Post that the predictor is based on admissions data provided by the school. But university officials say such formulas are misleading because each applicant is different and admissions decisions are influenced by many considerations.
The predictor contends that a male Virginia resident who scored 600 on the math section of the Scholastic Assessment Test and 600 on the verbal section, whose parents did not go to the institution and who had grades in the 93rd percentile of his high school class would have had a 50 percent chance of admission if he were White and a 55 percent chance if Asian. The same student would have had a 99 percent chance of admission if Black and an 83 percent chance if Hispanic, according to the center.
After the center challenged the university’s admissions policy last year, school officials discarded a point system that gave ethnic minorities an advantage in the early stages of the process.
Dudley says that in recent years, slightly more than half of Black applicants and slightly less than half of White applicants from Virginia have been admitted.
This year, applications to the university dropped 16 percent overall and 25 percent for Blacks (see Black Issues,  March 2). Dudley attributed the decline to several factors, including a rise in admission fees and a requirement that all students take a foreign language test.
The school had 14,461 applicants this year and admitted 5,359, a 37 percent admission rate. Of those admitted, 65 percent are White, 11 percent Black, 12 percent Asian and 3 percent Hispanic. The others either did not list an ethnicity or were grouped separately as residents of foreign countries, Dudley says.


North Florida Minority Enrollment Lags Without Affirmative Action                                         

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Black enrollment at the University of North Florida, where affirmative action ended in 1989, lags behind other campuses in the state, a university administrator acknowledged last month.
The testimony came during an administrative hearing on challenges to Gov. Jeb Bush’s One Florida plan, which would do away with affirmative action for admission to all Florida universities and in state contracting.
State University System Chancellor Dr. Adam Herbert abolished racial preferences at North Florida when he was president there, says Lynda Lewis, assistant provost for the 12,300-student campus.
North Florida instead has relied on outreach programs to help minority highschool students in the Jacksonville area prepare for college, she says.
Although Black enrollment at North Florida increased from 6.9 percent in 1989 to 9.9 percent in 1999, it was lower than the system’s 14 percent level and the 12 percent enrollment at Florida State University, Lewis acknowledged under cross-examination. The university also trails the University of South Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University, she says.
North Florida’s overall minority enrollment, including Hispanics, American Indians and Asians, was 18.6 percent in 1999, up about 50 percent from 12.2 percent 10 years earlier.
“We’re not using race for admission,” Lewis told reporters later. “If I were using race for admission I probably would be up near 24 percent, 25 percent.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Organization for Women as well as a Miami woman and her son, a high school student, asked for the hearing to prevent Bush from removing racial and gender preferences in admissions and contracting.
Bush contends his One Florida program actually will increase minority representation through better oversight and a Talented Twenty program. The latter would guarantee state university enrollment, although not necessarily in a student’s preferred school, for the top 20 percent of each public high school graduating class if a student has taken college preparatory courses.
Lewis, who chaired a task force that made recommendations for implementing Talented Twenty, says she believes it would increase minority enrollment throughout the system and compliment North Florida’s outreach efforts.
She says North Florida has identified 86 students at four Jacksonville high schools with high minority enrollment who are in the top 20 percent but cannot be admitted because they have not taken entrance exams.
 

University of South Carolina Protests Discrimination Report                    

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials at the University of South Carolina are asking federal investigators to reconsider a report that says the school might have discriminated against 26 Black maintenance workers.
University officials faxed a protest earlier this month to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asking it to vacate the findings in the preliminary report.
The report found “reason to believe” school officials used race to deny 26 employees their rights and violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“In spite of equal and sometimes superior qualifications,” the university paid the Black employees less than White workers and denied them promotions, the federal agency wrote last month to 25 men and one woman who complained.
The university’s protest says the Commission “has not conducted a fair and complete investigation.” It also says the employees hold different jobs and cannot be treated as a group.
“The university has a commendable record of employment practice,” says university spokesman Russ McKinney, who called the investigation “a drive-by ruling” that would disappear under closer investigation.
Of the 137 maintenance workers at the school, 34 are Black. None of the 26 workers pursuing the complaint — electricians, painters, carpenters and other trade workers — hold management positions, although some supervise other workers.
“It’s a good job,” says Donald Derrick, one of the workers who complained. “I have no problem with the university. … My problem is with the guys who run the department — how they distribute the money.”
Columbia attorney Dennis Bolt, who represents the 26 workers, says he contacted the university two months before taking his clients’ complaints to the Commission in July 1998. The workers didn’t want to “embarrass the university,” he says, and tried to resolve  the matter without filing a complaint.

Ala. Technical College Officials Fear Losing Black Heritage

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The state Board of Education voted in favor of merging Montgomery’s two technical colleges, despite the threat of legal action from opponents of the move who fear H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College will lose its heritage as a historically Black institution.
Faculty and staff at both Trenholm State and John M. Patterson State Technical College have fought the plan, along with some members of the Black community.
Patterson officials are concerned that “perennially poor audits” at Trenholm will “infect the newly formed institution,” says Patterson instructor Lee Gray.
Board members have said merging the two would save about $1 million a year. Members voted 6-1 last month in favor of a plan that would create a joint administration in a neutral location to manage both the campuses. A new president also would be hired.
“Until we have a willingness to work together, I don’t think we’ll ever have a successful merger,” says board member Stephanie Bell, who voted against the plan.
J.L. Alford, president of the Montgomery County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, says the group intends to seek a court injunction to block the merger.


Angelou, Mfume Cancel Ohio State Speeches

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Poet Maya Angelou and Kweisi Mfume, leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, declined to speak earlier this month at Ohio State University because of a strike by about 1,900 janitors, drivers and other workers, according to the union local.
Mfume, who was scheduled to talk about affirmative action and diversity, was to speak at a luncheon during a daylong conference sponsored by the university titled, Racial Legacies: Bridging the Political, Educational and  Economic Divide.
Local 4501 of the Communication Workers of America said in a statement that Mfume canceled the speech after learning of the strike.
The union went on strike after talks broke down, disrupting trash pickup, meals and bus service on the 48,000-student campus. Some professors canceled classes or held classes outdoors so students would not have to cross picket lines. But campus life seemed close to normal for many others.
The workers average about $10 per hour and want an immediate $2-per-hour raise.


U. of Iowa Spokeswoman’s Comment Draws Fire

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa spokeswoman Ann Rhodes says she was trying to be funny, but her comment about White men being “the root of most evil” is drawing widespread criticism.
More than 300 negative phone calls and e-mails have been logged with the school following Rhodes’ comments at a news conference announcing the arrest of a Black female dental student charged in a string of racist and threatening e-mails to her classmates.
Two men, Al Weaver of Cedar Rapids and Ted Chambers of Coralville, are so upset they may file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
“Either you’re a bigot or you’re not,” Weaver says. “She’s carrying that philosophy through everything she touches.”
A spokesman for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission says a complaint cannot be filed against an individual, although it could be directed at the university.
The comment by Rhodes, vice president of university relations, was made April 20 as she detailed the bizarre case and answered reporters’ questions.
Tarsha Claiborne is being held in  Johnson County Jail on $53,500 bond after being charged with sending a series of racist e-mails and threatening the lives of minority students at the College of Dentistry (see Black Issues, May 11).
Rhodes was asked during the news conference if she was surprised that the person alleged to have sent the threatening messages was a female student at the dental school.
“I figured it was going to be a White guy between 25 and 55 because they’re the root of most evil … but what do I know?” Rhodes responded.
A few hours later, Rhodes apologized in a fax to the media.
“I’m very sorry for what I said. It was a poor attempt at humor. I certainly do not literally believe that because it reinforces the kinds of stereotypes we have been working to dispel. It was inappropriate to joke about such a sensitive issue. I apologize,” her statement says.   



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