Thursday, November 03, 2005
On this day:

Alabama's desegregation lawsuit

It's 24 years old, and it's probably going back to court.

The case has seen three trials and two major orders from [U.S. District Court Judge Harold] Murphy totaling about 1,300 pages. The state has appropriated more than $180 million to carry out Murphy's orders. Most of the money has gone to Alabama A&M and ASU for such uses as diversity scholarships, physical facilities and multimillion-dollar endowments to support various academic activities and to set up courses that Murphy's orders have enabled them to establish...

For months, the parties to the case have been trying to negotiate a transitional agreement to end it...

[Attorney Robert] Hunter [(who represents the state)] said a big sticking point in the negotiations was a proposal for need-based scholarships to help low- to moderate income students meet the growing cost of higher education...

While differences over a need-based scholarship program kept the parties from reaching agreement on ending the case, another issue likely to come to trial is the plaintiffs' desire for some of the historically white institutions to boost their numbers of black faculty and administrators. [Jim] Blacksher [(who filed the suit that started the case in 1981)] said the plaintiffs want the schools to develop "diversity plans with goals and timetables."

Now that's an interesting concept of "desegregation." Establish "diversity plans with goals and timetables," i.e. quotas and racial preferences, while leaving the current structure intact. No consolidation. No merging of administrations or departments. Just more money for everybody.

The sad thing here is that no party to this never-ending lawsuit is willing to do what it takes in order to truly eliminate the vestiges of segregation in Alabama's higher ed system. Doing that would require either shutting down some schools, consolidating them in some manner, or privatizing them. Unfortunately, the old guard in Alabama - principally those who want to ensure that historically-black institutions remain that way - will have none of that, and the ever-present reminders of Jim Crow will be with us long after they depart from the scene.