Judge Allows Students to Help Defend Georgia’s Admissions Policy
ATHENS, Ga. — Several students concerned about the state’s efforts to defend the University of Georgia against a high-profile lawsuit alleging discrimination in the school’s admissions policy have added themselves as defendants in the case.
Ken Dious, an attorney here who represents the students, some of whom are Black and others of whom are White, says the seven doubt the determination of state lawyers and want to bolster the university’s chances in court.
“We are asking that the university’s policy be found constitutional,” Dious says. “We think it’s a good plan. The [U.S.] Supreme Court has said many times that race can be considered — as long as it’s not the predominant factor.”
U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield ruled last month that the seven students could join the case. Nia Ervin, Julius Johnson and other students unnamed in court documents — enrolled at the university or Athens high schools.
The students “are more than just citizen bystanders expressing a concern for the racial diversity of” the university, Edenfield wrote. “Rather, they include prospective African American applicants who could potentially receive the racial bonus points that UGA’s admissions policy currently affords.
“Likewise, present UGA students are directly affected by an admissions policy that likely will determine the racial composition of their future classes,” he wrote.
But Dr. Farris Johnson Jr. and his wife, Erin, say they were surprised to learn their children were included among the new group of litigants. Erin Johnson says lawyers listed the two high school students in the federal claim without the couple’s consent.
“We were surprised and a little dismayed,” she says. “We just didn’t want any negative repercussions for the kids. We feel they’re too young to be enjoined as defendants.”
The Athens couple has asked that their children be stricken as defendants.
The university admits about 85 percent of freshmen based on grades and test scores. But race is one of several factors the school looks at when considering borderline students, who make up 10 percent to 20 percent of each freshman class.
College Official Claims He Was Terminated For Refusing to Graduate Student
CANTON, Miss. — A former vice president for Tougaloo College who contends he was fired because he wouldn’t let the daughter of a prominent state politician graduate has filed a breach-of-contract suit against the school.
Former provost Dr. Lewis Jones says in a lawsuit filed last month in Madison County Circuit Court that Dr. Joe A. Lee, the college’s president, demand he let the woman graduate even though he says she failed to meet graduation requirements.
The suit names Lee and the college. Both Lee and other college officials declined to comment. Neither the student nor the politician is identified in the lawsuit.
When Jones refused to pass the student during the spring 1998 semester, the suit contends, his decision was overridden and the student graduated. The next month, Jones contends, Lee informed him his contract would not be renewed.
However, the school renewed the contract for the 1998-99 school year and gave him a raise to a salary of more than $75,000 a year, according to the complaint.
Jones alleges that in July 1998 Lee began an “intimidation” campaign aimed at forcing him to resign. He had served as provost since 1996. The suit seeks unspecified damages for lost wages, damage to reputation and emotional distress.
Wordiness Could Doom California’s Proposition 209
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Prop. 209, the controversial ballot initiative that California voters passed in 1996 to restrict racial consideration in education, employment and contracting, could be overturned on a procedural issue.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals here is considering a challenge to Prop. 209 brought by Dr. Roland Holmes, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s chapter in suburban Orange County, outside Los Angeles.
The appeals court sided with Holmes in November but the panel still must make a final ruling. Holmes’ challenge is based on a section of the state’s election code that limits the title and text of initiatives and referendums to 100 words. The title and summary for Prop. 209 was 200 words, twice the amount allowed by law.
Several previous attempts to have Prop. 209 reversed have met with failure. Holmes says he sued California Secretary of State Bill Jones because the activist was “determined to find another way to stop [Prop. 209] and went to the elections code.
“Man left to his own doing will not do right,” says Holmes, who holds a doctorate in theology, business, philosophy and ethics. “That’s why we have laws.”
Former Baton Rouge Chancellor Files Suit
BATON ROUGE, La. — In a lawsuit filed last month in district court here, former Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor Dr. Marion Bonaparte claims he was improperly and unfairly fired last August.
Bonaparte’s suit seeks lost wages and benefits from his $82,000-a-year post plus damages for “emotional distress, mental anguish, damage to his reputation, public humiliation, embarrassment, impairment of future employment opportunities” and legal costs.
Bonaparte maintains that when he was hired in 1995 to start up a new community college in Baton Rouge, his engagement letter clearly stated that he would “be granted tenure in his academic area.”
The lawsuit states Bonaparte accepted the job, moved to Baton Rouge and purchased a home there with the understanding that he would “have the security of a tenured position in his academic area.”
The state community college board fired him in August amid allegations of sloppy bookkeeping and discrimination against White faculty members. Board members said they weren’t passing judgement on Bonaparte, it merely wanted a change in leadership at the college.
At the time, the board asked its staff to investigate Bonaparte’s tenure status and to try to negotiate a severance package with him. Bonaparte has asked for one year’s salary, $82,000, as severance pay. Interim Chancellor Dr. Sammie Cosper says he and other officials consider that extreme.
Although Bonaparte’s engagement letter approved in 1995 says that he “shall be granted tenure,” Cosper contends the college’s governing board never took formal action to do so.
Center Director Admits Embezzling Funds
BATON ROUGE, La. — The director of the University Center here at Southern University at New Orleans has admitted embezzling $27,000 in video game revenues. School officials immediately fired him.
Louis McMillion, who was responsible for depositing the money at the comptroller’s office, says he took the money but did not know how much he had taken, according to state Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle.
Kyle’s audit, released late last month, says that the center collected $39,312 from video games between July 1995 and September 1999 — but only $11,622 was banked. Dr. Gerald Peoples, the university’s chancellor, fired McMillion.
Peoples, who says the university has set up new checks and balances to ensure center revenues are properly collected, reported and deposited, says the case has been referred to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. The school also is seeking to have McMillion to pay back the money.
Adam’s Mark Hotel Donates $50,000 to Spring Gathering for Black Students
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Adam’s Mark hotel chain, facing federal and state discrimination lawsuits for its alleged actions at this year’s Black College Reunion, has pledged $50,000 to help with planning the spring event.
U.S. Justice Department officials hit the Adam’s Mark with a racial discrimination lawsuit last month and the Florida Attorney General filed a motion the same day to intervene in the class-action suit charging the hotel with discrimination.
Among the allegations: The hotel required guests attending the Black College Reunion to wear orange identification wristbands. Poor housekeeping. Hotel officials insisted on full room payment to ensure a reservation and large deposits for use of the phone, mini-bar and in-room movies.
“We’re going to try to be more sensitive,” says Fred Kummer, president and chief executive officer of HBE Inc., the hotel’s parent company.
Mayor Bud Asher says that Kummer approached him about the offer several weeks before the lawsuits were filed. The money will go to a committee appointed by Asher to plan activities for the 100,000 Black college students expected to pour into the beach-side community the weekend of March 31 through April 2.
“He is agreeable for us to cooperate and make [the Black College Reunion] a more wholesome and positive experience.” Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, president of Bethune-Cookman College, said after a meeting with Kummer.
Asher says local businesses joined Kummer in pledging money to help improve the event. Dean O’Brien, president of a mayoral committee on the reunion, describes the financial commitments as a “nice post-Christmas present.”
Essays to Count More in Admissions Process at Florida Universities
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state’s two most selective public universities will give greater weight to personal essays now that Florida is barring race as a factor in admissions at state schools.
Florida State University and the University of Florida, each of which receive some 20,000 undergraduate applicants annually, will require essays beginning with the class of 2001. They are now optional.
The move comes in the wake of Gov. Jeb Bush’s plan to replace affirmative action with a guaranteed spot at one of Florida’s 10 public universities for high school seniors who rank in the top 20 percent of their class.
The board of regents is expected to approve Bush’s proposal this month. Admissions directors say written statements are a valuable way of showing how applicants have overcome hardship, without using race as a factor.
“We will be looking for things that imply a disadvantage or challenge the student has overcome,” says Florida State University Admissions Director John Barnhill.
Michigan District Considers Paid Training to Attract Black Teachers
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Public school officials here want to team up with Western Michigan University to offer paid teacher training for African American residents who want to switch careers.
Bob Harberts, superintendent of the Battle Creek public schools, hopes to use the program to recruit more minority teachers because he says the district faces a shortage, particularly of African American teachers.
Some 105 of the district’s 627 teachers are minorities. African American students make up about 32 percent of the total enrollment in grades K-12.
The program would be an intensive, paid internship with the school district. Participants would have to already have a bachelor’s degree. The two-year internship would include a student teaching stint. Participants would earn 24-30 college credits.
Participants also would have to agree to stay with the district for at least one year after the program ends. The program — which already has 14 interested candidates — is subject to school board approval.
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