State Journal: Governor's Rebuke; The Pedestal Or The Hole?

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Members of the New York State Board of Regents have decided to back off from an effort to put the panel on record in opposition to slurs against racial groups.

The lack of action brought a sharp rebuke, however, from Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who accused the panel of cowardice.

Norma Gluck, a member of the board, had prepared a resolution condemning racism after a widely publicized speech by Leonard Jeffries Jr., chairman of the black-studies department at City College of New York, in which he assailed Jews and whites.

Ms. Gluck's resolution called for barring the use of state facilities to make racist remarks and expressed support for multiculturalism and mutual understanding.

But Ms. Gluck last month withdrew the resolution after hearing from a board attorney that the regents could be sued for impinging on free speech. She cited a recent federal-court decision, rendered in the case of a white City College professor accused of making racist statements, that said that a chill on academic freedom resulted from education authorities' even investigating such allegations.

Governor Cuomo, who had earlier called for action to be taken against Mr. Jeffries, responded to the board's stance by wondering aloud if the state needed to hear from the regents anymore. He told reporters the board was weak-willed and unaccountable and the state should consider abolishing it.

Although school-finance equity is not likely to be at the top of the agenda during next year's Presidential campaign, the issue may already have played a role in maneuvering over the Democratic nomination.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who is mulling a third campaign for the White House, recently traveled to a low-wealth school district in southern Virginia that is part of a planned legal challenge to the state's school-funding system.

Political analysts could hardly help concluding that Mr. Jackson was trying to embarrass Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who has announced for the nomination and is widely seen as Mr. Jackson's chief rival for black support.

Governor Wilder has criticized the districts' expected lawsuit as an obstacle to legislative resolution of the problem of funding disparities.

In a speech to students, Mr. Jackson blasted the property-tax method of funding schools, which he said "puts the value on property, not on the child."

"You can't have some students standing in a hole and some students standing on a pedestal," he said, "and expect at the end of 12 years that they can compete equally in higher education."--P.S. & H.D.

Vol. 11, Issue 06, Page 22

Published in Print: October 9, 1991, as State Journal: Governor's Rebuke; The Pedestal Or The Hole?
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