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2004: A Year in Review

2004: A Year in Review The 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education  and, of course, the hotly contested U.S. presidential election were just two of the events that dominated the headlines in 2004. Throughout the year, colleges and universities, as well as other educational institutions across the country, commemorated the Supreme Court’s landmark case by convening lectures, conferences and symposiums. The pivotal event took place in Topeka, Kan., on May 17, where more than 5,000 people, along with President George W. Bush and several civil rights leaders, gathered to remember the historic decision that declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. In addition, the Monroe School, one of the four formerly segregated elementary schools for Black children in Topeka, opened as a National Historic Site.

2004 will also be remembered for a long campaign season. As the War in Iraq continued, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., squared off in one of the most highly anticipated presidential elections, with Bush ultimately declaring victory. In addition, Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois became the third Black U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

And not only did the
Brown v. Board decision celebrate an anniversary, Black Issues In Higher Education celebrated its 20th year in publication by convening its first national conference, “Benchmarks & Barriers for People of Color in Higher Education,” in Arlington, Va. Attendees were inspired by the words of Drs. Johnnetta Cole, Freeman Hrabowski and Belle Wheelan, among others. At a gala celebration, the first John Hope Franklin Distinguished Contributor to Higher Education awards were presented to Dr. David Levering Lewis, professor of history, Julius Silver University professor at New York University; Dr. Sybil Mobley, founding dean of Florida A&M University’s School of Business and Industry; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


-NAACP proceeds with the challenge of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s controversial One Florida higher education initiative, as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling. The decision allows the civil rights organization to continue its three-year legal battle against the program, which eliminated racial and gender preferences in university admissions. 

-Texas A&M University decided that it will no longer give preference to applicants whose parents or grandparents were graduates. In the past, more than 2,000 A&M applicants a year received what are known as legacy points. The state NAACP president called the program discriminatory because Blacks did not attend Texas A&M until 1963, negating the “legacy” of many minority applicants. 

-Catholic University (Washington) ultimately approves the establishment of an NAACP student chapter after initially rejecting the request, citing concerns about the organization’s position on abortion as well as the belief that existing student organizations were meeting the functions proposed for the student chapter.

-The former president of Morris Brown College, Dr. Dolores Cross, was charged along with her financial aid director with swindling federal loan programs out of about $5 million. Federal prosecutors said the two administrators at the historically Black college signed up hundreds of students for loans they didn’t want, and used the money to pay the school’s bills.

-Clark Atlanta University ends plans to tear down Paschal’s, a landmark restaurant. The eatery had been called “the kitchen of the civil rights movement.” School officials decided to sell Paschal’s rather than tear it down. The university had planned to build a $20 million dormitory on the site, but the university faced heated opposition from elected officials and community members.

-A massive grade-changing scandal masterminded by a former assistant registrar and found to date back to 1995, rocks Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.

-University of Alabama apologizes to descendents of slaves who were once owned by faculty members or worked on campus in the years before the Civil War.

-The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., open to great fanfare. 

-The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Ayers Mississippi college desegregation lawsuit, ending a 29-year-old legal battle over state support of three historically Black universities. The state can now enforce a $503 million settlement designed to correct past neglect of Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State universities.  1

-International student enrollment experienced its first absolute decline in foreign enrollments since 1971-1972, shrinking 2.4 percent in 2003-2004, according to the Institute for International Education.

-Brown University President Ruth Simmons established a committee to examine the Ivy League school’s historical ties to slavery and debate whether the university should make amends. She appointed about 15 faculty members, students and administrators, including historians, political scientists and experts in the fields of African studies, American civilization and ethnic studies.  2

-Southern University awards honorary degrees to 16 former students who were expelled 44 years ago for participating in sit-ins at racially segregated restaurants.  3


-Dr. Belinda C. Anderson becomes the first woman president of historically Black Virginia Union University. 4

-Dr. Ronald Crutcher becomes the first African American to be named president of Wheaton College. He was the former provost of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

-MIT named Dr. Susan Hockfield as its first woman president. Hockfield is a distinguished neuroscientist and former provost at Yale University. 5

-Dr. Roderick McDavis becomes the first African American president of Ohio University. Previously he was the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

-Dr. Francine G. McNairy is named president of Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She is the 13th president of the university and the first African American and woman president of the school.

-Smith College awarded the first engineering bachelor’s degrees ever offered at any of the nation’s women’s colleges.

Moving In, Moving On

-Lezli Baskerville is named the new president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) after Dr. Frederick S. Humphries steps down. The Washington, D.C., attorney is the fifth president of the umbrella association of the nation’s 118 public and private, two- and four-year historically and predominantly Black colleges and universities.  6

-Dr. Fred Gainous, president of Florida A&M University, announces he will resign his post effective Jan. 1, 2005, six weeks after trustees call for his resignation. He will become a tenured professor at the university’s College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture.

-Dr. James A. Hefner announces his plans to retire as the sixth president of Tennessee State University effective May 31, 2005. Questions have surfaced surrounding Hefner’s leadership and his handling of the university’s private foundation following two state audits. He plans to stay on as a business professor

-Elaine Jones, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund announces she will step down May 1, 2005.

-Dr. Michael L. Lomax became the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. Lomax, former president of Dillard University, plans to launch a 10-year capital campaign to grow the UNCF endowment to more than $1 billion.

-Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, announces he will step down effective Jan. 1, 2005. 7

-Hazel O’Leary, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, was appointed president of Fisk University. 8

In the World of Sports

-John Thompson III follows his dad and becomes head basketball coach at Georgetown University.

-Trent Johnson is named head coach of the men’s basketball team at Stanford University. Last year Johnson led the University of Nevada’s Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the school’s history.

-Tyrone Willingham was fired as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame three years into his contract. Less than a month later, he’s named head football coach at the University of Washington

Did You Know?

-During the 2002-2003 academic year, the number of jobs that U.S. and Canadian college and university English departments advertised in the MLA’s Job Information List fell by 8.3 percent since 2000-2001. The number of foreign language positions advertised fell by 7.8 percent since 2000-2001. Jobs in both English and foreign languages were projected to drop at least another 10 percent in the 2003-2004 academic year.


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