A Year in ReviewBlack Issues looks back over a year of educational highlightsTen years since the death of scholar athlete Arthur Ashe, 100 years since the publication of W.E.B. Du Bois’ timeless The Souls of Black Folk — 2003 has been another memorable year. But what probably most set the tone for the year ahead in higher education was President Bush’s announcement in January of his administration’s position on the University of Michigan’s admissions policy the day before legal briefs were due to the U.S. Supreme Court. Declaring his opposition to the Michigan plan, Bush said the policy “amounts to a quota system that unfairly rewards and penalizes prospective students solely on their race” and called it “fundamentally flawed.” At that moment, the battle lines were drawn and both camps, supporters and opponents of affirmative action, began to make predictions about the outcome of the cases and how much the administration’s position would influence the court. As April 1 approached, the day the Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments in the Michigan cases, the higher education community began mobilizing. Michigan already had the support of several higher ed leaders, Fortune 500 companies, politicians, military leaders, etc., who showed their support through amicus briefs. College students across the country began to hold rallies and protests in support of and against affirmative action, the largest gathering taking place the day of oral arguments in Washington outside the Supreme Court.Opponents, and those who were not too optimistic about how the court would rule, were active as well. Earlier in the year, some schools began to dismantle their special programs targeted toward students of color. For example, Virginia Tech’s board of visitors decided to bar the consideration of race and gender in campus admissions, hiring and financial aid. The university later restored its affirmative action policy after Black alumni expressed disapproval at the board’s decision. The Virginia attorney general’s office asserted that some of Virginia Tech’s diversity programs were unconstitutional; however, some board members lamented that their earlier decision came too quickly, and that they should have waited for guidance from the Supreme Court. The Michigan decision was the biggest story in higher education this year. However, the soaring cost of higher education — substantial tuition increases due to state budget cuts — also dominated the headlines.In addition, Morris Brown College was the big story in the Black college community. After the school was stripped of its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), many of the college’s students left to find new alma maters. The situation made many ponder the future and question the leadership of not just Morris Brown, but Black colleges in general.Several colleges and universities lost some of their most brilliant and promising alumni when the space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas during re-entry on Feb. 1, killing the seven astronauts on board, including Dr. Kalpana Chawla, who was the first Indian woman to fly aboard a U.S. space shuttle and Dr. Michael Anderson, the only African American among the seven astronauts.Lastly, the war on terror, which we have lived with since Sept. 11, 2001, continues to be a constant in the lives of Americans. However, the war in Iraq, which began earlier this year, does not seem to have dampened the interest on behalf of college students to travel and study abroad. In fact, U.S. college students are enrolling in foreign language courses in record numbers.There are certainly many more significant events to list, but following are some highlights and milestones in higher education that took place in 2003.
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