Mississippi Plaintiffs Make First Proposal in College Desegregation Case
State leaders are reviewing a proposed multiyear plan that could bolster the three historically Black universities and end the 25-year-old college desegregation case here.
An attorney for Black plaintiffs last month made the first settlement offer since negotiations began in June in an effort to settle the lawsuit out of court.
Jackson lawyer Issac Byrd Jr. wouldn’t reveal the cost, saying only “it’s a figure that’s substantial enough to take care of higher education.”
The main attorney in the lawsuit, Alvin Chambliss Jr., says that about $300 million is needed to bring historically Black Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley up to par with the other state colleges.
Chambliss is not involved in the negotiations led by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
Byrd says the plan would require lawmakers next year to guarantee spending at the colleges in future years. He says the proposal involves admissions standards, faculty salaries, programs and buildings. “This is what’s necessary to remedy the past,” he says.
State Rep. Tom Cameron, I-Greenville, says if the offer is in the $300 million range, “I don’t think the state can afford it.” He says the state could end up closing one of the eight
Chambliss says he had not seen the offer yet but “if it’s a dud, we’ll know about that and we’ll oppose it. It’s going to take make more than submitting papers to settle Ayers,” he says.
Mississippi had been sued in 1975 by Jake Ayers Sr. on behalf of a group of college students claiming that the historically Black universities were being neglected. A federal judge in Oxford is overseeing the state’s efforts to desegregate the schools.
Chambliss says many of the plaintiffs, including Armstrong and the Ayers family, were not involved in the settlement negotiations.
He says they would only sign off on a final settlement if it took care of needs of all three Black colleges.
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