Mississippi Desegregation Settlement May Help Jackson State More Than Others, Some Say
A settlement of Mississippi’s college desegregation lawsuit may help Jackson State University more than Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State universities, officials say.
Last month, a federal judge approved a desegregation plan in the Ayers case, signaling an end to the 27-year-old legal battle (see Black Issues, March 14). The settlement calls for $246 million to be spent on academic programs at the state’s traditionally Black institutions — Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State.
Jackson lawyer Reuben Anderson, a chief architect of the plan, says Jackson State could easily double its current 7,000-student enrollment because of the Ayers settlement.
Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State will experience long-range gains, but their locations in rural, economically depressed areas will make it harder for them to grow, Anderson says.
Opponents of the settlement have pledged to continue the legal battle. They say the state may have bartered in good faith, but the settlement was flawed and expensive.
“I don’t see where it will be a tremendous amount of improvement,” says JSU Faculty Senate President Vernon Archer, a biology professor who supports an anticipated appeal of the Ayers settlement to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I don’t see a much different physical plant (at JSU). I don’t think there will be an influx of Whites to campus.”
Anderson said Jackson State is growing already because of Ayers money and the final settlement will only help the school grow more. Working in tandem with the $903 million Nissan plant that opens next year in Madison County, JSU’s new School of Engineering will be a selling point to attract students of all races, Anderson says.
The School of Engineering along with plans for a $20 million building are viewed by some as the crown jewels of Ayers for JSU. There are now 150 students enrolled at the new JSU engineering school.
JSU’s new high-tech e-center also will strengthen the school. As part of the settlement, JSU gained a $20 million facility on 30 acres for $3.3 million.
The settlement has “given us the kinds of programs this metropolitan area needs — public health, engineering and Ph.D. programs and facilities,” says JSU President Dr. Ronald Mason Jr. “We will have a beautiful campus and academic programs of high quality.”
Even though Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State are not expected to grow as rapidly as Jackson State, Valley President Dr. Lester Newman is sure his institution will see its 3,081 enrollment increase to more than 5,000 students in the next 10 to 15 years.
The school will reach beyond the borders of its campuses now in Itta Bena, Greenwood and Greenville to better serve the Delta, Newman says.
Alcorn President Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr. says he remains optimistic. He believes Alcorn State could double its present enrollment of 3,000. Alcorn operates campuses in Lorman and Natchez.
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