Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Signs
Law School Bill
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill last month creating new law schools at Florida A&M University and Florida International University in a bid to open up the legal profession to more minorities.
“We’ve got enough lawyers, the problem is we don’t have enough African American and Hispanic lawyers,” Bush said after signing the bill on the Florida A&M campus.
Bush signed the bill on a stage at FAMU, flanked by a coalition of Black and Cuban American lawmakers who pushed for the new schools.
In the past, the two caucuses have been at odds, with Cuban American lawmakers wanting a school at Florida International in Miami and Black lawmakers fighting for the FAMU school.
As recently as last year, supporters from each university went to the Board of Regents, which oversees the state university system, seeking a law school. The board rejected the schools as unnecessary and too expensive.
But the Legislature had the ultimate say, and this year, with many lawmakers who had long sought one law school or the other leaving office because of term limits, the two groups cooperated on a bill calling for two new schools (see Black Issues, May 25).
For Florida A&M, the bill also was intended to right a historic wrong, returning to the school a law program that was taken away in 1968 when the mostly White university across town, Florida State, was granted a law school. FAMU, still predominantly Black, and its alumni have been pushing for the return of the school ever since.
“It’s a day that closes a festering sore that’s been open,” says Bernard Kinsey of Los Angeles, the university’s national alumni association president.
Where Florida A&M’s law school will be located is still up in the air. With the Florida State law school already in Tallahassee, lawmakers decided the Florida A&M law school should be placed in an under-served urban area along the growing I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando. In addition to those two cities, Lakeland also is vying for the school.
Florida A&M President Dr. Frederick Humphries says he is still considering proposals from all three cities and a decision likely will be made in the fall.
Classes at the new law schools are scheduled to begin in 2003.
Florida A&M now joins Howard University, Southern University, Texas Southern University, North Carolina Central University and the University of the District of Columbia as the lone Black colleges with law schools.
Tennessee State University
Fighting Community College Effort
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For decades, officials at Tennessee State University have tried to establish the university as the indisputable public institution serving Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
And time and again, the federal courts have backed up the historically Black school in that quest.
Now university supporters say they are under attack again — this time by a proposal to turn Nashville State Technical Institute into a community college and expand its mission.
At the Tennessee State National Alumni Association’s 55th annual convention last month, officials declared their intentions to fight such efforts.
Math professor Ray Richardson says Nashville officials continue to ignore Tennessee State, even though it has more resources to train students for white-collar jobs in local industries than Nashville Tech.
“Nashville Tech can do a lot of things,” he told more than 100 sympathetic alumni delegates. “TSU can do infinitely more. Nashville Tech is a good institution. TSU is a great one. We need to say to the people of Nashville, ‘Stop shooting yourself in the foot.'”
In 1977, a federal judge forced the predominantly White University of Tennessee at Nashville to become part of Tennessee State in a higher education desegregation case aimed at increasing White enrollment at the Black school and increasing minority enrollment at other state colleges in Tennessee. The order also has kept area universities — such as Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro and Austin Peay in Clarksville — from expanding their programs of study at the expense of Tennessee State.
The school’s progress in gaining community support has been slow, however.
This year, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, hoping to fill a gap in the city’s higher education offerings and make Nashville more attractive to employers, has recommended expanding the mission of Nashville Tech, a two-year school.
But some people fear a change in Nashville Tech’s mission would pull White students away from the four-year Tennessee State.
Tennessee State’s president, Dr. James Hefner, has declined to comment until mediation in the federal desegregation lawsuit is complete.
Robert Smith, president of the school’s National Alumni Association, says the institution should no longer be overlooked.
“Surely if we were UT-Nashville, they wouldn’t be calling for a community college to fill certain niches in the educational process,” Smith says.
U. of Iowa Spokeswoman Changing Jobs After ‘White Guy’ Comment
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa spokeswoman Ann Rhodes is changing jobs nearly two months after making a comment at a news conference that prompted hundreds of complaints.
At an April 20 news conference announcing the arrest of a Black woman in a series of threats made against minorities at the College of Dentistry, Rhodes was asked if she was surprised that the suspect was Black (see Black Issues, May 25).
“I figured it was going to be a White guy between 25 and 55 because they’re the root of most evil … but what do I know?” Rhodes quipped.
A few hours later, she apologized and said the remark was “a poor attempt at humor.”
The university received more than 300 complaints about the remark, officials say.
Last month, the university announced it was looking for a new vice president of university relations, a position Rhodes had held for the past 10 years.
In a statement, Rhodes said she’s had the “honor and privilege” to serve two university presidents and that after a decade, “I’ve chosen to return to my career in legal work and teaching.”
Rhodes, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing as well as a law degree, will spend part of her time as associate counsel in the university’s Office of the General Counsel, the statement says.
She also will teach in the College of Nursing and in the College of Education’s program in higher education administration, it says.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint about the statement filed by the European American Issues Forum, saying that the organization did not provide facts to support its allegation of a hostile environment for White men on the campus.
Also last month, the state civil rights commission decided not to pursue a complaint stemming from the remark.
Portrait Removed From Texas A&M After Complaint Over
Robert E. Lee Image
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Officials have removed a portrait of former Texas A&M University president Gilbert “Gibb” Gilchrist from the school building named after him because its background had an image of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Herbert Richardson, director of the Texas Transportation Institute, says he ordered in late May that the portrait be taken down from the lobby of the institute’s research building on the university’s west campus after receiving a complaint that Lee’s image carried racist overtones, the Bryan-College Station Eagle reported last month.
The painting pictured Gilchrist in the foreground with a portrait of Lee in the background.
“I felt that the lobby of that building is not the place for a confrontation between admirers of Robert E. Lee and those who view him as a symbol of slavery,” Richardson says.
Officials are considering whether to display the portrait, painted in the early 1950s, in another location or keep it in storage. Meanwhile, a plaque honoring Gilchrist is planned for the space where the painting had hung.
Gilchrist’s son, Henry Gilchrist, a Dallas lawyer, declined to criticize the decision.
He says his father was an admirer of Lee. Gilbert Gilchrist’s father, Angus Gilchrist, was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War.
“You’ve got to remember that at the time of his death in 1972, we didn’t have people telling us what we should think, so he did not have the opportunity to have his thoughts rehabilitated by people who think you cannot like Robert E. Lee,” Gilchrist says.
Gibb Gilchrist served as president of A&M from 1944 to 1948 and as chancellor of the A&M system from 1948 to 1953.
There was recent controversy over plaques outside the State Supreme Court chamber that included the Confederate battle flag and a quote from Robert E. Lee.
The plaques drew criticism from the NAACP, which had called for their removal. The plaques were taken down last month and replaced by ones saying Texas courts provide equal access to justice regardless of race.
Okla. Board Gets its Way:
A Black Member
TULSA, Okla. —The board of trustees governing Oklahoma State University-Tulsa has rejected Gov. Frank Keating’s nominee to replace an outgoing member who is the group’s lone Black member.
In saying goodbye last month, Dorothy DeWitty asked the board to fill her position with another Black person.
The board concurred and overrode Keating’s appointment of Joel Sander, a finance officer for the Tulsa County Clerk’s office. Sander is White.
“To understand my concern you must understand the original covenant between the [University Center at Tulsa] that was passed on to OSU-Tulsa,” says DeWitty, who had served since 1985 as a trustee for the University Center and the Tulsa campus.
“In the beginning, it was understood that one of the missions of UCAT was to serve and reflect the urban community, which it resides within. That means north Tulsa, and that means African American representation.”
Keating had suggested in April that Sander fill DeWitty’s position. DeWitty says appointing Sander to her spot would have eliminated racial diversity among the university’s trustees.
Trustees decided last month that Tulsa businessman Jim Goodwin, who is Black, would fill DeWitty’s position on the nine-member board.
Keating spokesman Phil Bacharach says the governor did not hesitate to support Goodwin, the associate publisher of the Oklahoma Eagle newspaper, once the trustees made it known that they preferred the Black publisher to Sander.
“We believe Mr. Sander and Mr. Goodwin are both exemplary individuals,” Bacharach says.
Over the last several years, many local Black leaders repeatedly have had to urge Keating to appoint more minorities to the state’s various higher education boards (see Black Issues Nov. 11, 1999).
State Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, once told Black Issues that “there’s been a lot of reluctance [by this administration] to have African Americans at the education table.”
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com