Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

North Carolina's Board Game

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

North Carolina's Board Game

Article excerpt

Conservative challenges a law that reserves slots for minorities and women on state's college board

RALEIGH, N.C. -- In North Carolina, a state with one of the highest concentrations of historically Black colleges and universities in the nation, laws designed to help HBCUs and Black students are under attack.

The charge is being led by conservative activist Jack Daly, president of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Foundation for Individual Rights. Daly's latest thrust is an attempt to get himself appointed to the board that oversees the state's 16 public universities. But his application to the board of governors seems to be designed to land him in court instead of on the board.

Daly is White, yet he applied for one of the seats reserved for women and minorities. The 27-year-old North Carolina native admits he was provoking a fight.

"My candidacy demonstrates that someone who has the misfortune of being White and/or male is seemingly excluded from certain seats on this board," Daly says in an interview with Black Issues In Higher Education.

Under state law, the board sets aside eight of its 32 seats for women and minorities.

"People who learn this for the first time are shocked that candidates for a public board are limited to members of a certain race or gender.... It's obviously immoral for people to be treated differently because of the color of their skin," Daly says.

Predictably, Daly was not one of the "women or minorities" the state legislature chose in March. Daly says he has not yet decided whether he will sue, like he did in 1996, the last time his candidacy for the board was rejected. But if he doesn't, he expects that someone else will.

"This will be litigated," Daly says.

Daly is certain he will resurrect a lawsuit challenging the state's "minority presence" grants, which give money to White students at historically Black institutions, and to minorities at predominantly White institutions. Daly termed the grants "outrageous."

His efforts concern many in North Carolina's higher education community, particularly at the state's five HBCUs. The minority presence grants are considered an Important tool in me state's efforts to attract White students to the HBCUs, where the state expects much of the system's future growth to occur. Although White student enrollment at HBCUs has dropped from 19 percent in 1993 to 14 percent this year, administrators are intent on reversing that trend.

"Without the minority presence grants, I think it would be more difficult for HBCUs to recruit other-race students," says Winston-Salem State University's chancellor, Dr. Alvin J. Schexnider, "and that's very important to our mission."

Some observers do not believe African Americans would be well represented on the board without the guarantees the law provides.

"Unless somebody makes a concerted effort to bring in minorities, only Caucasians will be there," says Dr. Talbert Shaw, president of Shaw University, a private HBCU in Raleigh that has a trustee who serves on the board.

North Carolina's method of appointing board of governors members is complicated, by any measure. Each of the two houses of the legislature chooses a certain number of members in categories designed to ensure racial, gender, and political diversity. The houses switch categories every two years.

The method's roots lie in the complex negotiations over merging White and Black universities into one statewide system, according to the system's vice president and general counsel, Richard Robinson. …

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