Doors to Southern Colleges Still Closed to Many Blacks

FORTY-ONE years after the Supreme Court's historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, ordering all-white schools to accept minority students, state college campuses throughout the South are still segregated and unequal.

A landmark study of four-year institutions in 12 states from Florida to Kentucky shows that minorities face limited access to predominantly white universities.

The Southern Education Foundation report released yesterday also shows a severe shortage of minority faculty in every state, intolerant attitudes, race-baiting, faculty indifference to minority issues, and a lack of minority mentors.

The report is likely to fuel debate over minority admissions at a time when conservatives are moving to overturn affirmative action rules in education and civil rights leaders say that past gains are now under assault.

''In each one of these states minority preparation, access, success, and faculty representation lags behind that of whites and substantially behind its proportions of the population,'' says Robert Kronley, senior consultant for the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta-based public charity that works to improve educational equity in the South.

SEF's report was prepared by a 26-member nonpartisan panel of educators, business leaders, politicians, and lawyers who spent 18 months visiting campuses.

''We are urging states to take specific and concentrated action to change things, but the remedies we propose can be a model for the rest of the nation,'' Mr. Kronley says.

The group focused on 12 of 19 states that at one time operated dual systems of higher education. All but one state -- Pennsylvania -- is in the South or considered a border state: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

THIS renewed call for desegregation across Dixie was prompted by a 1992 Supreme Court decision. In that case, United States v. Fordice, the Court required for the first time that state governments and educators address the legacy of segregation and persistent inequity in higher education.

The 1954 Brown decision had only specifically addressed desegregation in elementary and secondary schools. While universities had maintained race-neutral admissions policies -- accepting both qualified white and black students -- the Court in Fordice ruled those policies were not a sufficient remedy for desegregation.

While some institutions have been successful at providing more opportunities for minorities in higher education, the issue has not been systematically addressed on a statewide level, says attorney Jim Dyke, a former secretary of education for Virginia who served on the panel.

The report is a blueprint for what can be done, he says. ''In order to deal with desegregation we have to reform education from kindergarten to higher education,'' Mr. Dyke says.

According to the report, minority education gaps include:

*Inadequate preparation for college work. Because the South has some of the worst public school systems and many are in minority neighborhoods, blacks are disproportionately tracked away from college preparation courses and into dead-end curricula. Two-thirds of white students in the 12 states take college prep courses compared to half of minority students.

*Limited access. Poor preparation means minorities have less chance of entering four-year institutions. In eight states, fewer than 10 percent of black first-time freshmen were enrolled in the state's flagship university. State community colleges and historically black institutions attract more than 60 percent of black freshman in 10 of the 12 states. State community colleges often don't provide access to further higher education, however, and black colleges sometimes don't have the capability or resources to provide disadvantaged students with a high-quality education.

*Few minority faculty. In every state, blacks make up between 2 and 3 percent of faculty at universities. Historic discrimination, which kept minorities out of graduate schools, as well as discriminatory hiring practices, has led to the shortage.

Because the governors of the 12 states are responsible for their educational systems, they must lead reform efforts, Dyke says. ''We're not saying this is something that's really nice to do if you happen to be of a mind to do it. It's their legal obligation.''

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Doors to Southern Colleges Still Closed to Many Blacks
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today