Miss. HBCU Has New Competition for Students, Funds
JACKSON, Miss. — In a ruling praised by education partisans on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a federal judge will allow a four-year college program to begin accepting students as early as next summer, if funding allows. Eight months after blocking college expansion plans on the Gulf Coast, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. ruled earlier this month that the University of Southern Mississippi’s new classes should not hurt historically Black state universities.
Coastal leaders had complained of limited educational opportunities in the populous area. The ruling eliminated one of the last barriers for Southern Mississippi to have a four-year school in Long Beach.
Black plaintiffs in a 24-year-old college desegregation case had convinced Biggers in March to halt Southern Mississippi’s plans to admit freshmen and sophomores in Long Beach. Juniors and seniors are the only ones attending the campus now. The plaintiffs contended that predominantly Black Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State are already underfunded and would be financially impacted by a new campus.
“Although the court is not convinced that the Legislature is fully cognizant of the financial demands this undertaking will require in future years as an annual budget expenditure, nevertheless the court has no reason to question at this point the state’s willingness and ability to fund all the higher education needs, including the Gulf Coast expansion,” Biggers wrote in the ruling made public earlier this month.
Higher Education Commissioner Thomas Layzell said the College Board was pleased with the ruling and would “work with the Legislature on the funding request so that students can be admitted as early as June 2000.”
The College Board had agreed last January to allow the expansion. The 1999 Legislature provided no money for new classes because of Biggers’ earlier decision, but lawmakers said they would give USM-Gulf Coast at least $500,000 in 2000 if the federal court was satisfied.
Biggers had ruled last March that proposed admission requirements for the new students at the coast campus did not comply with requirements in a 1995 order to desegregate the state’s universities.
USM-Gulf Coast had planned to require applicants to write an essay and they wanted to limit admission to students who live on the coast. Those requirements were dropped.
Biggers is overseeing court-ordered desegregation of the eight state universities. Mississippi had been sued in 1975 by the late Jake Ayers Sr. over conditions at the Black colleges.
Administrators Project a Loss of Diversity Because of ‘One Florida’ Plan
TAMPA, Fla. — Members of a task force created to help enact Gov. Jeb Bush’s effort to end affirmative action in university admissions debated earlier this month what it would take to make the plan work. Meanwhile, University of Florida administrators estimated that the state’s flagship university would enroll 700 fewer minority students next year, a drop of about 50 percent, if race is not considered as a factor in admissions.
Under Bush’s One Florida proposal, race and ethnicity would no longer be factors in university admissions. Instead, the top 20 percent of graduates at each public high school would be guaranteed a spot at a public university, though not necessarily at the campus of their choice.
The 40-member task force voted to recommend that students’ grade-point averages be calculated at the end of their seventh semester of high school — or first semester of their senior year.
One of the toughest issues in carrying out the plan involves creating a uniform calculation method for GPAs. School districts now calculate GPAs in many different ways. Some give greater weight to advanced placement courses, for instance, while others give more consideration to honors classes.
After debating the pros and cons of a statewide approach to evaluating grades, the task force recommended there be some uniform state standard — to be determined later. School districts would still have some flexibility to give more weight to advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs. Less weight would be given to honors program.
Kim Federle, student body president at Florida State University, says she likes the idea of giving more weight to advanced placement courses. Otherwise, students who could get higher grades in easier classes could potentially end up with higher grade point averages.
“It’s important that the students that really make that better effort and take harder classes not feel slighted,” she says.
Bush’s plan calls for increased AP course offerings at low-performing schools.
Jocelyn Moore, student vice president at the University of Florida, says that it is a step in the right direction, but will take several years to see the results.
“Until the K-12 system is more equitable, it’s not going to help a lot.”
Last month, Charles Young, the interim University of Florida president, told some faculty members the plan would drain minority students away from the university, rather than boost enrollment (see Black Issues, Dec. 9, 1999).
Minority students represent about 24 percent of the University of Florida’s 42,000 students. Minority enrollment statewide is 35 percent.
The state board of regents approved Bush’s concept last month and asked Chancellor Adam Herbert to draft a policy for it to consider in January.
Fire, Racist Graffiti Damage HBCUs’ Business Incubator
RALEIGH, N.C. — A soon-to-be-opened small-business incubator, that will be managed by two historically Black colleges, was damaged when someone burned the interior and scrawled racist symbols on windows and walls.
The damage totaled about $300,000, according to the contractor who built the $1.7 million structure. The cost will be covered by the contractor’s insurance, but repairs will take at least two months.
The center — which would help launch new businesses by providing affordable office space, access to equipment and inexpensive marketing advice — was scheduled to open after the first of the year. It will be overseen by Raleigh’s two historically Black colleges, Shaw University and St. Augustine’s College.
“Here we were, finally on the threshold of something good for the community,” says City Council member Brad Thompson, a supporter of the project. “The incubator was a symbol of everything right in the city, and this action is a symbol of everything wrong.”
Capt. M.W. Franks of the Raleigh Fire Department says the arson was committed and the racist graffiti sprayed at the same time late Thanksgiving night.
The graffiti — swastikas, “KKK” and the more cryptic “Ree” — were applied to walls, windows and the floor with a caulk gun. JC Edwards, the building’s contractor, said the graffiti was the least of the physical damage. The arsonists took cans of paint to the top floor and dropped them to the second, where they exploded; they sprayed each of the five fire extinguishers until they were empty; they knocked holes in walls and doors, broke windows, turned on all the faucets on the second floor and finally set fire to the circular receptionist’s desk in the foyer.
Appeals Court Rejects Grad Student’s Discrimination Suit in Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich.— The state Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate a racial discrimination suit by a former graduate student who claimed the University of Michigan rejected his dissertation and denied him a doctorate because he is Black.
In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel found no factual basis for claims Philip Emeagwali filed against the university and individual faculty members.
In 1987, Michigan accepted Emeagwali as a pre-candidate for its civil engineering doctoral program that included a fellowship that covered tuition and provided him with a monthly stipend, court records show.
Between then and 1991, he completed 35 graduate credits and won a 1989 prize for significant achievements in the application of supercomputers to scientific and engineering problems.
After he twice failed his qualifying exams in civil engineering, he applied for a joint doctoral program in civil engineering and scientific computing. The university agreed to let him submit his dissertation for review to determine whether it deserved a doctorate. The dissertation failed.
He then sued for racial discrimination and for breach of a contract to award him a doctorate. The case was dismissed without trial.
The appeals court upheld that decision, saying Emeagwali failed to show he was treated differently from other graduate students who twice failed their civil engineering qualifying exam.
In addition, the court says that “there was no evidence in the record that any of the defendants had a predisposition to discriminate against African Americans or, even assuming such predispositions existed, that the defendants acted on them.”
It also found no evidence that White students received supercomputer access when Emeagwali didn’t, that the actions of any defendant “derived from racial animus” or that “White students received more extensive or better-quality faculty feedback concerning their dissertations.”
In addition, it rejected the claim he had received unfavorable grades on his coursework and qualifying exams in retaliation for filing discrimination complaints.
Julie Peterson, Michigan’s director of news and information services, says she couldn’t discuss details of the case because it involves an individual student’s academic record but that no further appeal has been filed.
New University of Mass. Test Benefits Sickle Cell Anemia Patients
JACKSON, Miss. — A study conducted by University of Mississippi Medical Center radiologists can better identify the risk of stroke in children who suffer from sickle cell disease.
The new ultrasound test gives doctors a color picture of a child’s blood vessels and, in turn, makes it easier to diagnose the threat of a stroke.
The work by UMC radiologists Abe Malouf Jr., Jennifer H. Turner, Michael C. Doherty, Rathi Iyer and Mary G. Smith found that a new Doppler ultrasound allows doctors a closer look at sickle cell patients’ arteries and better evaluate their chances of having a stroke.
Malouf, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago early this month, said the study improved sickle cell detection research begun in Georgia.
The study used more powerful equipment that is easier to operate and provides a dynamic color picture of blood flow. Malouf says the equipment is being used at more hospitals around the country.
“Because so many centers have the equipment, it opens up the number of places that can do the test,” Malouf says.
Sickle cell disease affects primarily Blacks and Hispanics in the United States and the southern hemisphere, and can be fatal, according to Radiological Society statistics.
About 10 percent of children with the disease suffer a narrowing in one or more arteries of the head and are at risk of developing a cerebral stroke if they’re not treated, the society says.
New North Carolina Consortium to Try to Close Racial Achievement Gap
DURHAM, N.C. — A dozen North Carolina colleges and universities have formed a consortium that will develop outreach programs to help public schools close the achievement gap between Black and White public school students.
State tests during the 1998-99 school year found just 49 percent of Black students scoring at or above grade level in reading and math tests, far short of the 79 percent passing rate for White students.
“We are 30 years into this process that we call integration,” state schools Superintendent Mike Ward said earlier this month at a gathering at N.C. Central University. “It’s simply wrong that gaps in performance and economic opportunity are still so stark.”
The consortium led by NCCU plans to hold a retreat at the end of January to identify the best ideas for closing the gap statewide. Consortium members will seek local, state, federal and private funding.
The institutions will use about $100,000 in seed money from the state Department of Public Instruction to launch programs aimed at Black students.
One pilot program set to begin Feb. 5 will send 100 Durham public school third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to tutoring for about nine weeks in writing, language arts and math. Parents also will be involved.
In a program at Shaw University in Raleigh, Shaw students, faculty, staff and community members will help children in nearby schools with basic skills and character development.
William A. Thurston, executive director of Shaw’s Center for Ethics and Leadership Development, says the students pledge to study every day and learn nonviolent conflict-resolution skills, spend time with mentors and tutors and are rewarded for their accomplishments.
NCCU Chancellor Julius Chambers says the achievement gap condemns minority children to “one of the most unpleasant lives imaginable.”
“We have a real crisis today,” Chambers said. “I don’t know how many young minority children you see who have missed an opportunity at getting an education and are now out with really no life and no future. I’ve seen a bunch of them.”
Grand Jury Adds to Charges Against Suspect in FAMU Bombings
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Hate crime charges have been added to the accusations against a White man suspected in two bombings at Florida A&M University.
Lawrence Lombardi, 41, is already being held on federal counts of setting off pipe bombs at Florida’s historically Black public institution and possession of a bomb.
Earlier this month, a U.S. federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Lombardi with attempting to “injure, intimidate and interfere with students because of their race and color.”
Bombs went off Aug. 31 and Sept. 22 in restrooms at the university, but no one at the 12,000-student campus was injured in either blast. Both explosions were accompanied by racist phone calls to a local television station (see Black Issues, Oct. 14, 1999).
If convicted on all charges, Lombardi could get life in prison. He has pleaded innocent. His trial, originally scheduled for Jan. 4, has been indefinitely delayed. n
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