Although the Legal Defense Fund was initially ready to follow the logic of public school precedents in higher education, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education was unwilling to sacrifice black colleges to the unseen benefits of further desegregation. The NAFEO brief injected into the proceedings important reminders of educational and racial reality. Black educators had long realized that racial identifiability was a symptom of other factors: the lack of access to white schools because of economic and academic barriers, but also, the positive supportive environment black students found on black campuses. They also had long recognized that the inadequacies of black colleges were due not to race itself, but to the inadequate funding, diminished status, and ill-defined educational roles allotted to them.
The experience and perceptions of black educators helped the Adams suit evolve from its original preoccupation with racial identifiability to its acceptance of increased access for black students, enhanced offerings at black colleges, and a more active role for blacks in educational decision making. This change in direction, embodied in HEW's Amended Criteria, was a first step to reconciling the demands for both equal right and equal opportunity. By recognizing the rights of black students to full access to white schools and, at the same time, the importance of institutions founded to serve the unique needs of black people, the definition of desegregation in 1977 suggested the possibility that black students and black colleges might be both black and equal.