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by Diverse Staff

Dr. Gates Among NEH Honorees at White House Dinner

WASHINGTON
Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the director of Harvard
University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, was
among the nine honorees at the White House on November 5 to be
presented the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) 1998
National Humanities Medal.

President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made
the presentations at a ceremony prior to a White House dinner in honor
of the recipients.

Others to receive the award were: author and biographer Stephen E.
Ambrose; Ragtime author E.L. Doctorow; Diana L. Eck, creator and
director of the Harvard-based Pluralism Project, which documents and
analyzes America’s religious diversity; Nancye Brown Gaj, founder and
president of MOTHERHEAD, a national family literacy program; Dr. Vartan
Gregorian, the former president of Brown University and the current
president of the Carnegie Corporation; university professor and author
Dr. Ramon Eduardo Ruiz; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Arthur M.
Schlesinger Jr.; and Garry Wills, syndicated columnist and essayist who
won the Pulitzer for Lincoln at Gettysburg.

“Their ideas and insights have touched untold millions of our
citizens and have shaped a clearer understanding of who we are as a
nation,” William R. Ferris, chairman of the NEH, said when announcing
the medalists.

Judgement Against Insurance Company Should Benefit Homeowners

RICHMOND, Va.
Late last month, a Richmond Circuit Court jury
issued a $100 million judgment against Nationwide Insurance for denying
homeowner policies to Blacks.

Scholars say the landmark deal — one of the largest
anti-discrimination awards in the nation’s history — could mean
significant changes for Blacks seeking home insurance policies.

“Insurance companies would say that there are legitimate reasons
why rates are higher in Black neighborhoods,” said Reynolds Farley, who
has done research on discrimination in housing for the University of
Michigan’s Population Studies Center.

“This decision would certainly make insurance companies think twice
about turning down minorities or about charging them more than White
customers,” he continued. “It may also make Black homeowners aware of
discriminatory practices they weren’t aware of before.”

Nationwide offered to settle the case — brought on by a local
housing group with federal backing — for $265,000. Representatives for
the Ohio-based insurance company said they plan to appeal to the
Virginia Supreme Court.

Texas Panel: Use Budget Surplus to Increase Diversity

AUSTIN
A special commission examining ethnic diversity on Texas
college campuses called for more than $600 million in additional state
spending over the next two years.

A report issued last month by the Texas Commission on a
Representative Student Body called for $500 million in need- and
achievement-based student financial aid. It also called for state
funding for marketing and recruitment programs aimed at increasing the
number of underrepresented students.

The call for additional higher education spending comes at a time
when state legislators are looking at the largest anticipated budget
surplus in Texas history. Lawmakers expect to have an additional $6.3
billion available when they convene in January 1999. That includes
unspent monies from the current two-year budget cycle, plus additional
revenues brought about by a booming state economy.

The commission, headed by former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, was formed
last year after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand an appeals
court ruling in the Hopwood v. the University of Texas case, which
prohibited race from being taken into account in college admissions in
Texas.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Texas Attorney General Dan Morales
ruled that the Hopwood decision — which was named for Cheryl Hopwood,
one of the four White students who had sued the University of Texas law
school — precluded race-conscious financial aid, scholarships, and
recruitment or retention programs.

“The impact was immediate, most notably in the public professional
schools, which experienced significant drops in Hispanic and African
American enrollment at law and medical schools,” the commission said.

Since January, the commission has been looking at ways that Texas
college enrollment can more closely reflect the state’s population.

Fired Instructor Wins $250,000 Case Against Prairie View

HOUSTON
A jury has awarded $ 250,000 to a former Prairie View
A&M University instructor who claimed he was fired in retaliation
for advocating faculty pay raises.

Officials are considering an appeal and would not comment on the award, a university spokesman said.

William Foster, who left Prairie View in May 1996, had taught math
since 1990 during a series of one-year, non-tenured contracts. He led
efforts to start a campus chapter of the Texas Faculty Association
(TFA), which advocates pay increases, tenure, and faculty input into
campus decision-making, according to his lawsuit.

Foster was fired three months after he asked the university’s
president, Dr. Charles A. Hines, at a faculty meeting, how monies
generated from higher student fees would be spent. Foster said he hoped
the monies would finance pay raises for faculty and staff members.

Foster said university officials would not tell him why his contract was not renewed.

The federal jury determined that Foster’s advocacy of pay raises
and his role with TFA were “motivating” factors in his firing. The jury
also found that Prairie View officials violated Foster’s right to free
speech.

Homecoming Violence Raises Racial Issues In Frostburg

FROSTBURG, Md.
Some African Americans at Frostburg State
University contend authorities showed racial insensitivity last month
in response to homecoming rowdiness that included a shooting and 147
arrests.

Carmen Jackson, director of the school’s diversity center, joined
several students at a city council meeting in questioning the use of a
police dog to break up a noisy party at a Black household.

The students also criticized Maryland State Police for vaguely
describing the shooting suspect simply as a Black man with an Afro
haircut, and Mayor John Bambacus for referring to fights between
fraternity members as “gang-like behavior.”

Bambacus defended the comment and said race had nothing to do with the crackdown on homecoming violence.

“We put up with the high jinks and pranks, but guns are not high jinks and pranks,” he said.

Police are still searching for the man, now described as a
six-foot, stocky Black, who fired six shots with a 9-mm pistol during a
confrontation between Black and White fraternity members. One person
was wounded by a bullet and another was hit in the head with a beer
bottle, police said.

The initial police description of the shooter “describes a lot of my friends,” said student Antonio Hayes.

RELATED ARTICLE: $200-Million Campaign Kickoff

Hampton University formally launched its $200-million capital
campaign last month. The festivities included appearances by Rev.
Jessie Jackson Jr., and Maya Angelou, and culminated in a gala ball at
the Hampton Coliseum honoring President William R. Harvey (shown with
Melva Sloan) for twenty-years of service. More than 1,250 gathered at
the $200-per plate dinner. During his remarks, Harvey announced that
the institution has already received commitments of $110 million. “But
we know that the last $90-million will be the hardest to raise,” he
said.

–Compiled by Black Issues staff and news services

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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