CHARLESTON, S.C. ― South Carolina’s only historically Black public university says that it has immunity and that current and former students who brought a federal court lawsuit alleging that the state operates a segregated system of higher education have no standing to sue.
A lawsuit naming the state of South Carolina and the state Commission on Higher Education filed earlier this year alleges that duplication of programs at other public universities hurts financially troubled South Carolina State’s enrollment and finances.
It alleges that, if White students can take courses elsewhere, they are not likely to attend South Carolina State in Orangeburg to take such courses. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and asks a federal judge to appoint a special mediator to recommend a remedy for what it calls a segregated higher education system.
The school was later added as a defendant, and attorneys for the university filed their response last month.
They argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it fails to state a claim for which a federal court can grant relief. The response also says some of the allegations involve actions by the state or the commission, not the university, and that the statute of limitations has expired.
The attorneys also responded that the university has immunity from the lawsuit under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, which says that a state cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.
In addition, the response says that the university is not a “person” subject to being sued as contemplated under a federal law permitting civil lawsuits for deprivation of constitutional rights.
Attorneys for the state and Commission on Higher Education earlier responded to the lawsuit, saying the state was required decades ago to dismantle its segregated system of higher education.
Their response said that the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights determined in 1988 that the state’s desegregation efforts complied with federal law.