Race Discrimination in Public Higher Education: Interpreting Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, 1964-1996

Race Discrimination in Public Higher Education: Interpreting Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, 1964-1996

Race Discrimination in Public Higher Education: Interpreting Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, 1964-1996

Race Discrimination in Public Higher Education: Interpreting Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, 1964-1996

Synopsis

After years of widely acknowledging race discrimination in higher education, American government leaders, college and university officials, and at-large citizens today question the need for civil rights laws and policies. Within an important sector of the public higher education community -- roughly nineteen states that used to operate laws separating students by race -- dispute focuses upon systemwide Title VI enforcement. Two interpretations of Title VI enforcement coexist. Among conservatives, absence of continuing discrimination and continuing good faith effort signal an end to the need for government enforcement. Among more liberal stakeholders, past enforcement has been weakly undertaken despite past and currently increasing evidence of continued discrimination.

Excerpt

Enforcement of federal civil rights laws and policies expanded into the nation's higher education community after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that equal, not separate but equal, education constitutes a right guaranteed under the constitution. New regulatory civil rights laws got passed in the 1960s for the first time, requiring the U.S. Department of Education (previously the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare [HEW]) and the U.S. Justice Department aggressively to monitor college and university systems, determining whether violations routinely were occurring. To liberal lawmakers of the time, legally and practically, it seemed necessary for the federal government to monitor and regulate, in addition to eliminating race segregation laws and processing formal complaints filed with the federal courts and the Office for Civil Rights at HEW by African-American and other aggrieved citizens. This was the case because, in the early 1960s, the practice of denying access to African-Americans and other racial groups was pervasive, insidious, and deeply embedded within the nation's K-12 and higher education communities. Eliminating race discrimination laws did not go far enough.

Thirty years ago, civil rights occupied a high place on the nation's public policy agenda. In addition to expanding the scope of regulatory laws and policies within higher education, federal officials adopted other strategies. Federal student financial aid laws constitute, for example, an incentive approach toward improving college access and choice for . . .

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