‘Educate, Don’t Segregate’
Twenty legal and legislative milestones in higher education
This timeline reflects some of the most significant legal and legislative milestones that have influenced higher education almost as long as Black Issues In Higher Education has been in print. The ongoing legal battles have primarily involved the further desegregation of schools and the use of race and gender in scholarships and university admissions. Most recently, in 2003, a year away from commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the use of race in college admissions survived — legally — when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of universities to consider race in admissions procedures in order to achieve a diverse student body. In two lawsuits challenging the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of the university’s law school and, by a vote of 6-3, struck down the university’s undergraduate policy, which used a point-based system, while still allowing for the consideration of race in admissions. What legal challenges will the higher education community face 20 years from now? We will have to wait and see.
1984: The first edition of Black Issues In Higher Education is published.
1986: Title III in the Higher Education Act is amended to include Part B — the amendment to be known as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Act — substantially increasing Title III funding to HBCUs.
1989: A federal appeals court revives the Adams desegregation case, requiring the U.S. Education Department to monitor the desegregation of public colleges in all states that had a legally mandated segregated system of higher education. In 1987, a federal judge dismissed the case, which for nearly 15 years forced the Southern and border states to submit plans to desegregate their colleges.
1990: Michael Williams, head of the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the George H. W. Bush administration, announces that it is illegal for colleges to restrict scholarships based on race or ethnicity. Following protests from colleges, the administration re-examines the issue, yet later adopts a policy to restrict such scholarships.
1992: U.S. Supreme Court rules in Ayers v. Mississippi that Mississippi has not done enough to eliminate segregation in its public universities. The lawsuit was filed in 1975 by the late Jake Ayers, the father of a Black college student, who accused the state of neglecting its three historically Black colleges and universities. The court orders a new trial in the case to produce another desegregation plan. The lawsuit continues as Ayers v. Fordice.
1994: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in Podberesky v. Kirwan that public-funded scholarships designated only for Black students are no longer permissible in the state of Maryland and other 4th Circuit states. The decision has a chilling effect on race-conscious scholarship programs around the nation.
1995: The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Adarand Contractors Inc. v. Peña holds that federal affirmative action programs involving the use of race as a basis for preferential treatment are lawful only if they can withstand federal courts’ “strict scrutiny.” The case, which limits the use of preferences based on race or ethnicity in federal programs, prompts colleges and universities to examine their participation in “set aside” and minority-grant programs.
1995: Federal District Court Judge Harold Murphy’s decision in Knight v. Alabama mandates the creation of Whites-only scholarships at Alabama State University to desegregate the school. The decision is later challenged by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights on behalf of a Black student.
1995: U.S. President Bill Clinton delivers the “Mend It, Don’t End It” speech defending affirmative action. His speech provides critical moral and political support for affirmative action during a period of heightened attacks by critics. Months prior to the speech, Clinton had ordered a review of all federal programs involving affirmative action.
1995: The University of California Board of Regents passes SP-1, a ban on race- and gender-conscious affirmative action policies in admissions and hiring in the university system.
1996: California’s Proposition 209 — the anti-affirmative referendum — passes, imposing a ban on race- and gender-conscious affirmative action on all state institutions.
1996: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decides in Hopwood v. Texas that race cannot be used in admissions decisions, causing underrepresented minority enrollment to plummet at Texas schools.
1997: Two lawsuits are filed against the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor challenging both the undergraduate and law school’s admissions policies (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger). In Gratz v. Bollinger, which was filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights, two White students, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, sue the University of Michigan after being denied admission to the university’s undergraduate college. The lawsuits charge the university and law school with reverse discrimination.
1998: Washington state’s I-200 passes imposing a ban on race-conscious affirmative action policies.
1998: The Higher Education Act is reauthorized, allowing Title III-B to remain focused on HBCUs. Black and Hispanic lawmakers and policy-makers initially clash over eligibility requirements, funding and location of a Hispanic-serving institutions program in the Higher Education Act. An eventual compromise provides new funding for HSIs, although not under Title III.
1998: The 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act sees increases in the TRIO programs and Pell Grant funding. A new access program, GEAR UP, is approved, launching an early intervention program designed to alert disadvantaged youths that they will be eligible for student loans and Pell Grants if they complete high school and opt to go to college.
2000: The Georgia Appeals Court rules in favor of White plaintiffs that claim the University of Georgia uses race as a factor in admissions.
2001: University of California regents repeal their ban on affirmative action, hoping to send a welcoming message to minority students. The move is largely symbolic since California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, which continues to prohibit race-conscious policies in the state.
2002: The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy in admissions to the law school (Grutter v. Bollinger), reversing a lower court ruling and upholding the university’s position that it has a compelling interest in achieving a diverse student body.
2002: A federal judge approves a desegregation plan for Mississippi’s universities, signaling an end to a 27-year-old legal battle. Mississippi lawmakers pledge to fulfill the requirements of the settlement, expected to cost more than $500 million.
2003: U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions policy, which uses a point-based system for applicants, while still allowing the consideration of race. In addition, the Court upholds the law school’s admissions policy, which used a less mechanical admissions formula.
2004: Black Issues In Higher Education celebrates its 20th anniversary.
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