Report Urges E.D. To Accept Validity Of College Scholarships Based on Race

By Mark Pitsch — November 18, 1992 3 min read

The Education Department should recognize the validity of scholarships based on race and offer such scholarships to minority students as incentives for becoming college professors, a state advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has urged.

The recommendations were contained in a report on campus racial tensions released last week by the Massachusetts Advisory Committee to the federal civil-rights panel.

The 46-page report, which was based on a September 1991 hearing, details bias-related incidents and the effects of bias-related tension on the campuses of the University of Massachusetts and Smith College.

The report also emphasizes the importance of multicultural education at the elementary and secondary levels. “Any multicultural education still required at the college level,’' it suggests, “should be recognized as important remedial work.’'

The report is the first of three coming from advisory committees in the New England states, with panels in Vermont and Connecticut working on similar reports.

The advisory panels launched the studies late last year as the federal commission was preparing a plan to investigate bias-related tensions across the United States, including a look at colleges and schools.

The U.S. commission’s investigation, which began last January with a hearing in Washington, is still under way. A spokeswoman said reports will be issued soon. (See Education Week, Dec. 4, 1991.)

Race-based scholarships have been a controversial issue since an Education Department official two years ago declared that such aid was discriminatory and illegal.

Federal Regulations Delayed

Since then, the department has proposed regulations barring exclusively race-based scholarships, although minority status could be included as one of a number of factors for determining awards.

Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander subsequently decided to put off final action on the regulations, however, pending a General Accounting Office report on the issue.

In its report, the Massachusetts advisory committee argued that race-based scholarships are needed because the recruitment of minority students and faculty is “uneven’’ and hurt by limits on the financial awards made to such students.

The advisory committee also called for vigorous monitoring of students’ civil rights by the U.S. Commission, contending that such efforts now lack cohesion.

In addition, the advisory committee proposed that the federal government work with state and local governments to make campus officials and students more aware of civil-rights laws. Too many campus officials and students are not informed about such laws, the report says.

Bias Incidents Detailed

Looking at evidence of bias on the two campuses, the advisory panel found that the University of Massachusetts in particular has been the scene of numerous incidents of racial tension.

Most recently, the report charges, a black dormitory supervisor allegedly was punched and called a racial name by a white attacker, who did not attend the school. Later, the supervisor reportedly found racial graffiti and feces outside his room.

In an effort to curb racial tension, the university administration and students, through a Justice Department mediator, reached agreement on what the university would do to make the campus climate more hospitable to minority students.

The steps included recruiting at least 20 percent minority first-year students by the fall of 1995 and continuing to work to increase the number of minority faculty members; creating 40 new full-tuition scholarships for the 1993-94 academic year; and renaming Columbus Day.

At Smith, racial tension has been less pronounced. But the report noted that many minority students there still feel uncomfortable.

“ ‘In my 19 years of living, I have never experienced as much racism as I have at Smith College,’ '' the report quotes one minority student as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the November 18, 1992 edition of Education Week as Report Urges E.D. To Accept Validity Of College Scholarships Based on Race