WASHINGTON — DEFIANT in his reading of the law but conceding political naivet'e, Michael Williams, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said he has met with White House officials and is reversing his ban on scholarships reserved for minorities. Mr. Williams set off a firestorm of controversy earlier this month by announcing that according to his interpretation of civil rights laws and recent Supreme Court decisions, race-exclusive scholarships are illegal.
Groups representing minorities and universities called Williams's ruling contrary to decades of legal advice. White House officials said they were not notified in advance of his ruling and, after a barrage of criticism from Cabinet members and top administration officials, Williams announced his new position.
Under the policy he outlined, the Education Department will permit universities receiving federal funds to administer scholarships for minorities that are established and funded entirely by private individuals or organizations. Williams said private universities receiving federal funds may not fund race-exclusive scholarships with their own funds.
The controversy came at a time when administration relations with the minority community are strained because of President Bush's veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990. Bush contended the bill would have established racial quotas.