Texas Educators Seek Clarification on Hopwood Decision
Richardson, Susan, Black Issues in Higher Education
Texas Educators Seek Clarification on Hopwood Decision: Minority Admissions to Texas Elite Public Colleges in Free-fall
AUSTIN, Texas -- As African American admissions at Texas's elite public universities go into a free-fall because of the Hopwood ruling, a free-for-all has ensued over the interpretation of the court decision that ended affirmative action in higher education in the state.
Conflicting legal interpretations. clarifications and legislative attempts to undo Hopwood's effect on minority admissions to state colleges and universities have increased the acrimony and politics surrounding the 1996 Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales maintains that Hopwood bans the consideration of race in admissions, financial aid, scholarships and recruiting. Federal officials and critics argue that previous court rulings to desegregate higher education and promote diversity still apply to Texas.
As the political volleys fly across the campus at the University of Texas at Austin, where the Hopwood case originated, administrators are frustrated because African American undergraduate and law school applicants for the fall semester have declined by 21 percent from last year. White applicants declined by 14 percent. according to university figures. This fall is to be the first semester in which students will be admitted to state universities and colleges under court-mandated race-neutral policies.
The War of Words
A new source of confusion emerged late last month when Norma Cantú, assistant education secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. appeared to back away from her warning to Texas not to place too much emphasis on the Hopwood ruling. This reversal came after U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) threatened to block Education Department (ED) funding. Gramm accused Cantú of pursuing political agenda" for Texas higher education after Cantú had strongly advised Texas to give the U.S. Supreme Court's Bakke decision precedence over Hopwood. In the 1978 Bakke decision -- one of the first so-called reverse discrimination cases -- justices allowed race as a criterion in admissions in the interest of diversity.
In a March letter to Morales, Cantú said Hopwood applied only to the University of Texas (UT) law school, where four white applicants challenged a former admissions policy, and that Texas universities could still use affirmative action to cure discriminatory practices.
The letter also said, "On two occasions, I have offered to meet with your office to ensure that public institutions of higher education are receiving clear and comprehensive advice regarding the scope of the Hopwood decision."
But at a recent Texas Senate Education Committee hearing, Morales accused Cantú of threatening to withhold about $2 billion in federal aid for higher education in Texas.
"To the extent that the department is attempting to pressure or intimidate our state to reimpose race preferences in our public colleges or universities -- in direct contradiction of a binding federal court order -- we are obligated to oppose those efforts with the force I think is warranted," Morales said.
The same week, twelve Texas state senators sent a letter to President Bill Clinton that stated: "Our attorney general is incorrect in his interpretation of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Hopwood case and Texas public universities have been incorrect in extending that opinion far beyond the intended scope of the judgment."
State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) signed the letter and has corresponded with Cantú about Hopwood.
"I just read [Morales's opinion] as an attempt to broaden his political base," Ellis said.
However, in what press secretaries dubbed "clarifications," both Cantú and Morales appeared to have backed down from their earlier positions. Morales maintained that he never said race could not be a …
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Publication information: Article title: Texas Educators Seek Clarification on Hopwood Decision. Contributors: Richardson, Susan - Author. Magazine title: Black Issues in Higher Education. Volume: 14. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 1, 1997. Page number: 18+. © 1999 Cox, Matthews & Associates. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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