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News Briefs

One Florida Plan Meets More Opposition

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  —  Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have voted to issue a statement criticizing Gov. Jeb Bush’s program banning consideration of race and gender in university admissions and contracting decisions.
The federal panel voted 6-2 to approve the statement earlier this month, says commission spokesman David Aronson.
The statement says One Florida lacks the ingredients to increase diversity.
Voting against issuing the statement were commission members Carl A. Anderson and Russell G. Redenbaugh.
Bush has dismissed the criticism by the commission for its stand on the One Florida plan. Democrats, he noted, dominate the panel.
“I think it was a purely political statement,” Bush says.
Meanwhile, state University System Chancellor Dr. Adam Herbert plans to recommend that a new policy guaranteeing admission to the top 20 percent of each high school senior class be stopped after a specific date, still to be determined.
Herbert disclosed his plans in a letter to three state legislators, who had asked that Bush’s new “Talented 20” plan be delayed for a year.

Queens College President Resigns

NEW YORK — Queens College President Dr. Allen Sessoms, beset with controversy over his failed plan to bring a $30 million AIDS research center to the campus, resigned earlier this month.
“I have written to President Allen L. Sessoms of Queens College to indicate my acceptance of his resignation, which will be effective August 31, 2000,” City University of New York Chancellor Dr. Matthew Goldstein said.
In a written statement, Sessoms, who is African American, said it had been difficult to live apart from his family, who stayed in Boston during his five years at the college. He added that he was interested in exploring “significant new opportunities.”
Rita Rodin, a CUNY spokeswoman, said she could not elaborate on the reasons for Sessoms’ resignation from the $136,661-a-year post.
But The New York Times and Newsday reported that Sessoms quit under pressure after misleading CUNY officials by saying he had raised sufficient funds to build the AIDS center when in fact he had not.
Sessoms,53, drew wide attention when he announced plans to bring AIDS researcher Luc Montagnier to Queens and build a research center for him, saying he would raise most of the necessary $30 million from private donations.
The Times said CUNY’s decision to seek Sessoms’ removal followed the completion of a report on the AIDS center and a five-year review of Sessoms by a panel of outside educators.
Trustees told The Times that both reports, which have not been released, raised serious concerns about Sessoms’ leadership.

Efforts to Limit Citadel Performances of “Dixie” May Be Working

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The African American Society at The Citadel may be making progress in efforts to limit playing “Dixie” at the state military college.
The school customs committee of the college’s governing board recommended earlier this month that the administration, not the board, decide when it is historically appropriate to play the song.
“If the committee’s recommendation goes before the full board and is ratified, then, yes, progress has been made,” says Allyn Brooks-LaSure, president of the African American Society.
Last month, the society suggested limiting “Dixie” to only one of the college’s four major visitors’ weekends and at other events when historically necessary. The policy now is to play it at historically appropriate events, although cadets may elect not to play or stand in formation when “Dixie” is played. Until last year, the song was played once a year, says Brooks-LaSure. But when the Citadel Story, a musical history of the college, was introduced last year, there was concern “Dixie” would be played more often.

Witnesses to Testify About
University of Michigan Challenge

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Historian John Hope Franklin, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and a slew of other prominent witnesses will testify on behalf of minority and women students who intervened in the landmark affirmative action challenge at the University of Michigan Law School.
 The students, many of them campus leaders at the university, have been invited to make public presentations about the case and about campus activism at Michigan and other colleges.
“The students intervened to make the case that affirmative action is necessary for fairness, for further movement toward equality and for the expansion of opportunity for all,” says their attorney, Linda Massie. “Their commitment and the importance of their struggle have inspired an outstanding group of witnesses to take part in defending the progress we have made over the second half of this century.”
The list of expert witnesses will include: Franklin, who will testify about the history of the struggle for educational equality and about the continuing significance of racism in the United States; James Meredith, who desegregated the University of Mississippi; Gary Orfield, a leading national scholar on segregation in K-12 education; Dr. Eugenia Garcia, dean of the graduate education program at the University of California at Berkeley, who will address the elimination of affirmative action of the University of California system; Frank Wu of the Howard University School of Law, who will testify about Asian Americans and affirmative action; and David White and Jay Rosner, who will testify about problems of bias and discriminatory impact in the use of the Law School Admissions Tests.

Omega Psi Phi Settles Hazing Lawsuit
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Officials from Omega Psi Phi fraternity have agreed to drop an appeal and pay $1 million to a former University of Louisville student who was severely beaten during a hazing incident in 1997.
Last July, a jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court ordered the fraternity to pay $931,428 to Shawn A. Blackston.
Blackston, now 26, was beaten with a wooden paddle, suffered renal failure and was hospitalized as a result of the April 2, 1997, hazing. The school banished the chapter from its campus for at least 10 years as a result of the incident.
Blackston called the concession, announced earlier this month, a “blessing.”
“I’m glad that everything is over and done with,” he says. “I can move forward with the rest of my life.”
Blackston is fully recovered and now works at an auto shop in Louisville.
Omega Psi Phi, a traditionally African American fraternity, has had problems with hazing elsewhere. Its chapters have been banned at times at Indiana University and Eastern Kentucky University.
In 1997, a jury awarded a former Indiana University student $774,500 for a hazing incident involving two weeks of beatings at that school’s chapter. Also in 1997, a jury awarded $375,000 to a former University of Maryland student who was hospitalized for a week after being severely beaten by members of the same fraternity.
Sheryl Snyder, the attorney who handled Omega Psi Phi’s appeal in Blackston’s case, would not say why the fraternity decided to settle or where the fraternity is getting the money.

Tennessee State Trying to Boost
White Enrollment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee State University is trying to reverse the trend of declining White enrollment despite offers of full scholarships to students with a 2.5 grade-point average and a 19 on the ACT.
White high school seniors Amanda E. Jones and Amanda R. Jones, who are not related, accepted scholarship offers on the spot late last month during the university’s first open house for White students at Tennessee State.
“Excellent. You’re going to love it here,” Dr. James A. Hefner, the university’s president told the teenagers.
A federal judge in 1984 ordered historically Black Tennessee State to increase its White enrollment to 50 percent and for other Tennessee public colleges and universities to raise their Black enrollment.
The court order was the result of a 1968 lawsuit filed by former instructor Rita Sanders Geier, who charged the state was perpetuating a dual higher education system for Blacks and Whites by allowing the University of Tennessee to build a campus in downtown Nashville.
The two campuses were merged in 1977, under the umbrella of Tennessee State.
University officials say they will continue to offer scholarships to White students with a 2.5 grade-point average and a score of 19 on the ACT college exam.
Hefner says he hasn’t been able to give away all the money available to such students in recent years, but he intends to give away all $800,000 this year.

Ohio Students Invite Abu-Jamal to
Share Opinions at Ceremony

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio —  Students at two Ohio schools have invited the infamous death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak via audiotape during spring ceremonies amid a swarm of protesters who have vowed to rally against the speeches.
Antioch College officials here announced earlier this month that Abu-Jamal will deliver their commencement speech. A week later, Kent State University students announced plans to have a 10-minute taped speech by Abu-Jamal played at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the Ohio National Guard shootings May 4, 1970, that killed four students and injured nine.
Abu-Jamal, 45 and imprisoned in Pennsylvania, was selected as the Antioch speaker among 27 nominees. About half of the 109 graduating seniors voted. The university’s president, Dr. Robert Devine says the school stands behind its students’ decision.
“Allowing an audiotape to be played does not mean that we support or celebrate Abu-Jamal’s action or that we have sufficient information to sit in judgment one way or another,” he says.
But since officials faced a barrage of criticism after announcing the controversial speaker, Devine says the college will hold a forum at an off-campus building an hour before the April 29 ceremony to discuss the selection of Abu-Jamal as well as issues raised by his case.
Abu-Jamal, a radio journalist and former Black Panther activist, was convicted of killing Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner in 1981. He repeatedly has proclaimed his innocence. Death penalty opponents and Abu-Jamal’s supporters say he was targeted for political reasons and framed.
Those invited to attend the off-campus forum include Maureen Faulkner, wife of the slain officer; the Fraternal Order of Police; and Amnesty International.
Meanwhile, Kent officials say they are not concerned about a similar backlash for their May 4 event, says university spokesman Ron Kirksey. “It’s a student-sponsored rally,” he says.

Black Caucus Opposes Bryant’s Appointment to U. of Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala.  — The Legislative Black Caucus is opposing efforts to put local businessman Paul Bryant Jr. on the board of the University of Alabama because of racial comments attributed to him 11 years ago.
The Legislative Black Caucus passed a resolution earlier this month saying that a statement Bryant made in a September 1989 issue of Esquire magazine “totally insults the integrity of all Blacks” and “does not give the impression of sensitivity toward Blacks.”
The Black Caucus did not announce the vote on the resolution, but not all members supported it. State Sen. Charles Steele, D-Tuscaloosa, says he believes Bryant was misquoted and would still like to see him serve as an Alabama trustee.
In 1989, Bryant owned a dog track in Greene County and was quoted in the magazine as saying the grandstand crowd at the dog track “is a low-class, low-income crowd. … Down here, it’s generally your lower class of Blacks, your welfare Blacks, you want ’em to have enough room to get in and out, but at the same time you want to get as many in as possible.”
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, describes the comment as a “total racist statement…He hasn’t said, ‘I’m sorry. I apologize,'” Rogers says. “From what I heard he still feels this way.”
The Black Caucus sent a copy of the resolution to Gov. Don Siegelman. But chief of staff Paul Hamrick says Siegelman would have to talk with Bryant and the Black Caucus before commenting.
Siegelman does not appoint trustees for the University of Alabama System, but he has supported Bryant for a spot on the board.
Alabama’s board of trustees picks its own members, subject to approval by a majority of the Alabama Senate. The Alabama board has not nominated Bryant for a seat, but the board has seven trustees awaiting approval by the Senate. The Senate could reject one of the seven and make Bryant a replacement. It’s a process the Senate has used before to get trustees to its liking.

African Cultures Scholar Shack Dies at 76
BERKELEY, Calif. — Dr.William Alfred Shack, a scholar of African cultures and professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, has died of cancer, university officials reported.
Shack, who was also dean emeritus of the school’s graduate division, died late last month. He was 76.
Internationally known for his work on the Gurage people of Ethiopia and for a series of books on African society, Shack was known on campus for his evenhanded stewardship of several administrative posts.
“He was a scholar and a gentleman, one of the leading anthropologists of Africa and a man dedicated to public service,” says Dr. Paul Rabinow, chairman of Berkeley’s anthropology department.
In 1991, Berkeley awarded him its highest honor, the Berkeley Citation, in recognition of his multiple contributions. While dean of the graduate division, Shack established a student exchange program with several French universities, for which France awarded him the Chevalier L’Ordre National Du Merite in 1987.
Born in Chicago, Shack served in the South Pacific during World War II. He earned a bachelor’s from the Art Institute of Chicago, a master’s in anthropology from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from the London School of Economics. Shack is survived by his wife, Dorothy Nash Shack, and a son, Hailu Araya Shack.  

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics