Recent News and Notes
Saturday, December 17, 2005
"Universities that want their bread buttered on both sides when it comes to
affirmative action would do better to apply more fiber than fat in their reasoning.
"It's true that the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago said universities may consider
race in college-admission decisions. But race is to be considered along with other
factors. The high court said each application must be evaluated individually.
"In no way is that upheld when universities insist on offering minority-only
scholarships. And that contempt may land one university in court. [SIU
"The U.S. Justice Department has threatened to file a lawsuit over Southern Illinois
University's three paid fellowships, which are reserved exclusively for minority and
"How with a straight face can the university's spokesman say the program, 'which has
expanded the depth and breadth of diversity,' doesn't discriminate?
"So-called 'diversity' achieved by excluding whites and/or males is not diversity at
all but discrimination. With regard to Southern Illinois' program, which includes
stipends, there may be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act, which bars
discrimination in employment.
"Other universities, Northwestern among them, have opened up programs that formerly
were race-exclusive since the Supreme Court ruling.
"Sadly some centers of higher education would rather remain ignorant about something
that by now should be elementary."
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HEAD: Race cases put colleges to test
By Kavita Kumar
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
"The dispute between the Justice Department and Southern Illinois University over
three minority graduate fellowships taps into an issue that has nagged educators for
years: How can universities attract minority students without breaking the law?
"It's a tricky question, experts say, because there is no clear federal policy or
court decision about race-based scholarships, fellowships and outreach programs.
"In Missouri and Illinois, some universities have done away with such programs in
recent years and are looking for alternate ways to make their classes diverse.
"The movement to open up such programs intensified after two U.S. Supreme Court cases
in 2003 regarding affirmative action. In those cases, brought against the University
of Michigan, the justices ruled that race can be one factor, but not the only factor, that
universities use in admissions.
" 'The Michigan cases have had a chilling effect on a lot of these universities,'
said John Baworowsky, a vice president at St. Louis University, which eliminated a
scholarship for black students two years ago. 'We're all trying to do a better job
of appealing to students of diverse backgrounds while living within the confine of the
"Other schools, however, have not changed course. Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville, for example, has no plans to eliminate a scholarship for minorities.
" 'We are very comfortable with our practices here at SIUE,' said Sharon Berry,
director of the university's financial aid office.
"Part of the problem is a lack of consensus on what the Michigan cases mean.
"Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education, said the
decisions left little ambiguity about the legality of certain scholarships and programs.
" 'If you can't have a race-specific admissions program, it stands to logic that you
can't have a race-specific fellowship program or a race-specific summer outreach program,'
"But Art Coleman, a former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Education
Department under President Bill Clinton, said there is still a lot of confusion about what
"The Michigan cases dealt exclusively with admissions and didn't address aid and
outreach programs, said Coleman, now a Washington lawyer who leads seminars and has
written policy manuals on the issue for the College Board.
"Coleman argues that context may well be the deciding factor in whether programs pass
legal review. Universities, he said, need to show that the programs have a
compelling interest - such as the educational benefits of having a diverse campus - and
that using race is necessary to meet that end.
" 'There is still a lot of frustration because these are not easy cases and these are
not easy questions,' he said.
Pushing for changes
"After the Michigan cases, the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Virginia-based group
that opposes racial preferences, ramped up its efforts to make schools open up their
minority programs to people of all races. The group has sent letters to hundreds of
schools where it found or received complaints about racially exclusive programs, said
Roger Clegg, the group's general counsel.
"The center complained to Washington University and SLU about their scholarships -
and later went to the federal government, prompting both schools to make changes.
"Last year, the center filed a complaint with the Justice Department about three SIU
minority fellowships at the Carbondale campus that provide students with stipends and
"In a letter to SIU in early November, the Justice Department said the university,
because of the fellowship programs, 'has engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional
discrimination against whites, nonpreferred minorities and males' in violation of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"For the last couple of weeks, federal and SIU officials have met behind closed doors
to work out a compromise. If the Justice Department sues SIU, as it has threatened,
experts say it would be the first time in the last decade that a race-based scholarship or
fellowship has been challenged in court.
"As the situation unfolds at SIU, administrators at other schools continue to stand
by their minority scholarships and programs.
"For example, the University of Missouri at Rolla uses money from corporations to
offer summer campus and workshops for high school minority students and provides
race-based scholarships. Maryville University gives a few small scholarships to
minorities in its education school with money donated by Southwestern Bell.
"Coleman said universities would not likely be liable for scholarships or programs
paid for and administered by outside groups. But if a university funds or has a
significant hand in the administration of a scholarship, it could be on shaky ground under
"Even the state of Missouri has a scholarship for minority students. The
Missouri Minority Teaching Scholarship was set up by a state law about a decade ago and is
administered through the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
About 100 scholarships of a few thousand dollars each are awarded every year to black,
Hispanic, Native-Americans and Asian-American students.
"The department says it is not aware of any complaints about the scholarships.
"SLU and Washington U., which retooled their minority scholarships in the last couple
of years, are grappling today with what those changes mean for student diversity.
"About two years ago, SLU did away with its blacks-only Ernest A. Calloway Jr.
scholarships. The school instead instituted Martin Luther King Jr. scholarships for
students of any background who are committed to promoting diversity. Since the
change, 38 percent of MLK scholars have been black, 27 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic
and 15 percent Asian-American.
"Baworowsky, vice president of enrollment management and academic services at SLU,
said the new scholarship program has brought in more out-of-state students, from places
like Florida and California. But he is also concerned that it hurt the number of
black students who enrolled in this year's freshman class. Black students make up
about 6.4 percent of the class - slightly less than the percentage last year, even though
the class as a whole grew by about 75 students.
"Baworowsky hopes he can attract more black students by making the scholarship
applicants come to campus for interviews, allowing the school to 'roll out the red
carpet.' He also hopes to offer better aid packages to low-income and
first-generation college students.
"At Washington U., the John B. Ervin and Annika Rodriguez scholarship programs had a
mix of students - not just blacks and Hispanics - for the first time this year. The
university reluctantly changed the programs after federal officials received complaints
from the Center for Equal Opportunity.
"James McLeod, vice chancellor for students, said it's too early to determine how the
change will affect student diversity.
" 'This is something our government has felt is important to do and we've done it,'
he said. 'We've welcomed this group of terrific young people. . . . We're moving
"The challenge now is to figure out how to recruit minorities without the
scholarships, McLeod said. So the school is beefing up its mailings and school visits.
" 'We're trying to make college fairs in every place we can find one,' he said."
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