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Alabama Desegregation Case Coming to a Close


A 25-year-old desegregation case involving Alabama’s colleges and universities is coming to a close, as U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy has ordered the state to set aside $46 million in surplus education funds. Part of the sum is to be used for a need-based scholarship program and a construction program at two historically Black state institutions.

In Knight & Sims v. State of Alabama, the plaintiffs, who also get $1.5 million to cover attorney fees, argued that conditions at the state’s four-year universities and at the two historically Black state universities, Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University, continue to deny Blacks the right to equal higher education.

The defendants consisted of the two HBCUs, Athens State University, Auburn University, Calhoun Community College, Jacksonville State University, the University of Alabama, the University of North Alabama, Troy State University and the state’s two-year college system.

As part of the settlement, all of the universities and colleges must implement a strategic diversity plan to increase the number of Black faculty members, ensure Black representation on committees and administrative positions and make efforts to increase diversity on their individual campuses.

Plaintiffs attorney James U. Blacksher told The Decatur Daily that his clients have mixed feelings about the settlements.

“I think they would have liked to have seen more progress at the historically Black universities and more progress in the hiring of Black faculty members at the historically White universities,” Blacksher says. “I think both schools are in a position to increase their number of White and Black students.”

The agreement also lifts a consent decree for Calhoun and ends enrollment caps at the college’s Huntsville campus, which could lead to the beginning of day classes.

Calhoun President Dr. Marilyn C. Beck says it was an opportunity to expand course offerings to students.

“It’s also an opportunity to continue to enhance our partnerships with our education partners in the area like Athens State … and Alabama A&M,” she told The Decatur Daily.

A hearing to determine the fairness of the settlement has been scheduled for Dec. 5, 2006, in Birmingham, Ala.

Diverse staff reports

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