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by Black Issues


Doctoral Program Decision
Deferred in Baltimore
BALTIMORE — A decision on new doctoral programs at two Baltimore-area public universities, opposed by Morgan State University on the grounds they would unnecessarily duplicate programs at the predominantly Black school, has been deferred, state education officials said late last month.
The programs will not be approved before the commission “has meaningfully examined whether educationally sound and less segregative alternatives are available to meet a demonstrated educational need,” wrote Dr. John J. Oliver, chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Oliver made the comments in a letter to the presidents of Towson University and the University of Baltimore — the two schools seeking the new programs — and Morgan State.
Morgan State officials have said approval of the programs would violate the state’s equal educational opportunity obligations under state and federal law (see Black Issues, May 25).
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which is currently conducting an assessment of the integration of the state’s higher education system, has backed Morgan’s objections.
Morgan State’s president, Dr. Earl S. Richardson, has said the school needs exclusivity in programs if it is to become a more diverse institution. Competition from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University and the University of Baltimore would drain possible non-Black students away from Morgan, he says.
“If we are going to establish parity in these campuses’ attractiveness, then we have to make sure these campuses have the opportunity to be unique,” Richardson told Black Issues.
He says that Morgan State flourished — and had a nearly 60 percent non-Black student population — in the 1960s when it was the only public liberal arts college here and enrolled more than 6,000 students. Then, as other institutions opened and attained programs duplicative of those at Morgan State, enrollment took a nose dive.
“So now we’re 28 years behind,” he says, adding that based on a conservative growth rate of 3.5 percent, Morgan State would currently have 16,000 students had other area institutions not been allowed to duplicate programs.
“Those who are proponents of this duplication in Baltimore may be well-intentioned,” Richardson says. “But the proponents of separate but equal may also have been well-intentioned.”


U. of Wash. Humor Publication in
Hot Water for Prison Piece
SEATTLE — Top officials and minority students at the University of Washington are angry over a made-up story that appeared in the student humor publication, The Mutt.
The article, published last month, says the university will meet its diversity goals by recruiting Black prison inmates under a new outreach program.
The article said one “Bubbha Buthlter” entered the university eight weeks after his release from Washington State Penitentiary and was awaiting the transfer of six of his former prison colleagues. Under the new program, the article said, the inmates must sign a behavioral contract with their parole officers before stepping onto the university’s campus.
“It’s an outrageous, offensive, racist and homophobic piece,” says Dr. Richard McCormick, the university’s president. “I have seen miserable things in The Daily (student newspaper) before, but this is the worst. It is so blatantly racist and so offensive in every way.”
The Mutt is a separate publication from The Daily but is distributed inside it.
Tyrone Porter, a bioengineering doctoral student who is involved in minority recruitment at the university, was one of two students who expressed anger over the article at a Board of Regents meeting last month.
“That was the only question I had in the meeting: ‘Why?'” Porter says. “It’s the same question that was asked in the ’60s, the same question that was asked in the ’70s, it’s the same question that’s been asked through the decades.”
Jason Sykes, editor in chief of The Mutt, says he saw the article as a parody of those who think the only point of an outreach program is to recruit underqualified minorities.
But, he says, “Reading it again, after I heard that there were complaints about it, I realized I was reading between the lines to get the point of the parody.”
Sykes said he would write an open letter to The Daily to apologize. McCormick and the board planned to draft letters condemning the story.
The timing of the article could not be worse for the university’s efforts to boost minority enrollment, which fell abruptly after the passage of Initiative 200 outlawed the use of affirmative action in admissions.
“During a year when we’ve been working so hard to expand this university’s outreach to young men and women of color to recruit them to the university, to have something like this happen is so incredibly damaging,” McCormick says.
 

Moses Tapped to Lead
American Assoc. of Higher Education
WASHINGTON — Officials here at the American Association of Higher Education have announced that Dr. Yolanda T. Moses, the embattled former president of the City University of New York’s City College, has been appointed president of the association and will take over Aug. 1.
“As we move into the 21st century, it is clear that effective higher education is going to be more important than ever,” Moses said in a statement. “I am committed to making sure that AAHE maintains its leadership role as a catalyst in American higher education transformation.”
Moses was unceremoniously run out of the New York system after the Board of Trustees there derided her for lacking management skills and being inept at raising money for the institution. But many professors and local politicians called the move racist and maintained that Moses was being punished for emphasizing access, multiculturalism and other race-related issues.
She once told Black Issues that: “What I find as a Black woman is that at every career level you reach, you have to educate people about what it means to be a diverse group, to be inclusive, to represent all people.”
The association’s board chair, Richard Chait, praises Moses’ appointment, calling her an extraordinarily talented and experienced person.
“At every turn, she has provided moral and intellectual leadership, and her unswerving commitment to teaching, learning service and diversity coincide precisely with AAHE’s mission and priorities.”
Moses replaces Margaret A. Miller, who announced in November that she would resign for medical reasons.


Miss. College Board Draws
Fire for Lack of Diversity
JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s newly appointed College Board members are fending off criticism that they will be unable to resolve the decades-old desegregation lawsuit in Mississippi because they are White.
The new board consists of three White men, a White woman and a Black man.
The appointments are drawing fire from Black advocates concerned about the Ayers vs. Fordice desegregation case, filed 25 years ago over conditions at historically Black universities.
Alvin Chambliss Jr., a lawyer who represented Jake Ayers in the suit, expressed doubts about resolving the case “in the interests of Black people.”
“Board members come and go, but Ayers remains,” Chambliss says. “Judging by the quality and racial composition (of the board), it doesn’t seem like the board is gung-ho about a resolution.”
Contributing to skepticism is the board’s resolve to offer freshman courses at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast campus despite arguments it would drain funding needed to settle the Ayers case.
And critics of two of the appointees say their positions on foundations that raise money for Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi would make them biased against Blacks.
Five new nominees named last month by Musgrove include one Black member, but no alumni from Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State or Alcorn State universities. Indianola schools Superintendent Cassie Pennington, a Jackson State alumnus, left the board when his term expired in early May.
The fact that none of the appointees is a Black woman “is an inexcusable blunder,” says state Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville.
The board consists of members named by Musgrove, a Democrat, and seven others appointed over the past eight years by former Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice. The board’s two Black members are D.E. Magee Jr. of Jackson, a graduate of Central State University in Ohio, and Calvin Neely, a Grenada City Council member who is an alumnus of the now defunct Mississippi Industrial College.
Musgrove defends his selections, all of whom must be confirmed by the state Senate. Members serve for 12 years.
Starkville businessman Bryce Griffis, a new Musgrove nominee, had the opportunity to work on an Ayers settlement when he served on the board from 1980 to 1992.
And Scott Ross, another Musgrove nominee and a former legislator, served nine years on the House Universities and Colleges Committee beginning in 1984 when the case was in its relative infancy.
During his first stint on the board, Griffis is remembered for voting with the majority in a 9-3 vote in January 1986 urging the Legislature to close Mississippi Valley, Mississippi University for Women, the state veterinary and dental schools and six off-campus degree-granting centers and to downgrade Alcorn State and Delta State universities to college status.
Meanwhile, Musgrove has announced he is planning a series of meetings with plaintiffs and defendants in the desegregation case in hopes of reaching a settlement.
Ayers’ widow, Lillie Ayers, says she’s encouraged by Musgrove’s push for a settlement.
“It may just be my hope,” she says. “I think he (Musgrove) is on the right path in even trying to bring it up.”


Montana May Implement
Writing Test as College Requirement
BOZEMAN, Mont.  — The Montana Board of Regents here is considering requiring high school students to pass a writing test to enter the state’s four-year colleges.
College students also would be required to prove they can write well before being allowed to graduate. The object is to maintain educational quality and eliminate remedial classes, says Dr. Joyce Scott, deputy commissioner of higher education.
The regents discussed the proposal for the first time at their meeting last month in Kalispell. Regents Richard Roehm, of Bozeman, and Deborah Wetsit, of Billings, say they are concerned about whether such a test could be fair, and whether it would create a barrier to higher education for
some students.
“Whenever you give examinations, how fair are they, especially for minority students or people from different backgrounds?” Roehm says. “A person can be as smart as anything, and if they’re from a different culture, they could be viewed as not sharp, and that’s not fair.”
If a writing test can be made that’s fair and promotes quality, then it would be “a good deal,” he adds.
Members of the “majority, rule-making culture” have to be sure they’re not “inadvertently creating barriers,” says Wetsit, the only American Indian on the Board of Regents. “I get real concerned when we set up more gates to access to the University System.”
Wetsit adds that she is also concerned about the impact on rural students, the time and expense it would take to evaluate writing tests, and the fact that faculty members aren’t yet aware of the proposal.


Ohio Affirmative Action Case
Will Go to Trial
CINCINNATI  — A federal appeals court has ordered that a trial be conducted for a former University of Cincinnati official who was fired after he questioned the school’s commitment to affirmative action.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month reversed part of a U.S. District Court opinion and ruled in favor of  John B. Johnson, the university’s former vice president of human resources and human relations.
Johnson, who is Black, managed the school’s affirmative action program for more than two years until he was fired on Jan. 17, 1996. He alleged discrimination based on race and that he was fired in retaliation for filing a claim against the university with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The university said that Johnson’s performance was substandard and that he botched negotiations with a union representing university clerical workers.
Johnson sued the university, its president and other officials, but a district court judge dismissed his claims and issued a summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Johnson appealed that ruling.
The appeals court ruled this month that the district court was correct to dismiss Johnson’s claims of discrimination based on race, but that there should be a trial on his claim that the firing was an illegal retaliation for his dispute with the university.
 
Fla. Bombing Trial Changes Venue
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— A federal judge has moved the trial of a White man accused of setting off two pipe bombs at predominantly Black Florida A&M University to Pensacola due to pretrial publicity in the case.
Besides the bombing charges, Lawrence Lombardi, 42, is charged with committing a hate crime for allegedly setting off the bombs at the university’s Tallahassee campus (see Black Issues, October 28, 1999). He also is charged with two counts of possession of a bomb.
Lombardi worked for a while stocking vending machines on the university’s campus and elsewhere around Tallahassee for a local distributing company.
During a court hearing earlier this month, Hinkle ruled against Lombardi’s request to move the trial out of North Florida. He decided instead on Pensacola, located about 190 miles west of Tallahassee, but still within the same federal judicial district.
Neither blast did much damage and no one was injured, but last year’s explosions —and the racist threats that followed each — set the entire campus on edge.
The first blast went off Aug. 31 in a restroom at an administration building at Florida’s only historically Black public university. The second went off Sept. 22 in a classroom building restroom.
Both incidents were accompanied by racist phone calls to a local television station — one call warned that the two explosions were just the beginning, further spreading fear among the 12,000-student campus.
If convicted on all charges, Lombardi could face up to life in prison and fines as high as $250,000.


Clarence Thomas to Teach
Creighton Law Class
OMAHA, Neb. — Officials at Creighton University’s School of Law here have announced that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will co-teach a one-credit course related to constitutional theory with Creighton law professor Mike Fenner. The two-week class will meet during the Supreme Court’s February recess.
“The final details of the course offering haven’t been worked out yet, but this will be a tremendous educational opportunity for Creighton law students,” says Patrick Borchers, dean of Creighton’s law school, which has a 2.8 percent Black student enrollment.


Colleges Battered By Spring Storm
GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina A&T State University and Bennett College here were among several city colleges hit hard by a tornado-like storm late last month.
The sight of fallen oak and pine trees was common on both campuses, and Bennett officials reported about $20,000 worth of damage.
But it was A&T that took the heaviest hits. Aside from flooded basements and leaky roofs in campus buildings, several barns at the university’s farm were destroyed and a fallen tree crushed the roof of an unoccupied dormitory. Additionally, the school’s Fitness and Wellness Center, currently under construction, was damaged.
A&T and Bennett officials reported no injuries or fatalities.    



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