Key Documents in Texas Higher Education

Reverse Chronology

By Greg Moses

1997: OCR and the National Black Law Students Association

Cantu 1997: Letter from Norma V. Cantu, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; to Joseph Gourrier, Attorney General of the National Black Law Students Association; June 28, 1997. Two pages. Although the letterhead and typed salutation are from the Assistant Secretary, the actual signature is by “Raymond C. Pierce for NVC.”

Cantu explains that OCR is investigating Texas higher education as a result of the 1992 Fordice ruling to determine, “the State’s compliance with its OCR approved desegregation plan and its efforts to eliminate all vestiges of the de jure system” (p.1).

“Our activity in Texas began on Feb. 4, 1997 when we advised Governor George Bush that we would begin our review of the State’s higher education system” (p.1.).

“During our higher education system review, the Title VI allegations of your complaint will be addressed” (p.2.) [Note: As Attorney General of the National Black Law Students Association, Gourrier filed a complaint in 1996 on behalf of black citizens in Texas, alleging that vestiges of segregation had not yet been overcome in Texas higher education.]

Gourrier 1997: Letter from Joseph Gourrier, Attorney General of the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Black Law Students Association (now National Attorney General for NBLSA); to President Clinton; May 22, 1997; 3 pages.

“As you are aware, the Fifth Circuit prohibited the use of race in admissions to the University of Texas School of Law in Hopwood vs. State of Texas. Subsequently, the Texas attorney general has stated that the ban applies to all Texas colleges and universities and has extended the opinion’s coverage to financial aid, scholarship, fellowship, recruitment and retention programs.

“We are deeply concerned because this action violates provisions of Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act] which requires states and schools found guilty of operating de jure school systems to take affirmative action to remedy the present effects of past discrimination” (p. 1).

“In 1992, the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Fordice that before a state or institution found guilty of operating a dual education system can be cleared of those charges, an investigation must be conducted considering a wide variety of factors. The court clearly stated the burden of proof rested on the state or institution to show they had remedied the findings of discrimination” 1-2).

August 1997: Letter from Taylor D. August, Director of the Dallas Office of OCR; to Joseph Gourrier, Attorney General of the Black Law Students Association; May 1, 1997. Two pages.

“OCR accepted provisionally a five year desegregation plan from the State of Texas for its system of higher education on January 15, 1981. This five-year plan was amended after extensive negotiations with OCR and the final plan accepted by OCR, as amended on June 14, 1983. During the course of our present review, we will make determinations regarding whether the State fulfilled the commitments contained in its 1983 plan and whether vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated as a result of the implementation of that plan and a subsequent plan which the state undertook on its own initiative” (p. 2).

1988-91: Reviewing the first “Texas Plan”

Ashworth 1991: “The Fifth Annual Narrative Report on the Texas Equal Educational Opportunity Plan for Higher Education Covering Academic Year 1987-88: Submitted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for Governor Ann W. Richards”; report due August 15, 1988, submitted January, 1991; Kenneth H. Ashworth, Commissioner of Higher Education.

“Beyond setting five-year goals, the Texas Equal Opportunity Plan for Higher Education identified patterns of minority participation in postsecondary education. The Texas Plan has also served to focus attention on the underlying problems that have complicated minority access to higher education in the nation over the last decade. Some of these concerns, such as the reversal of black and Hispanic college attendance, high secondary dropout rates among blacks and Hispanics, shifts to loans from grants in federal student aid, and the economic difficulties of Texas, were outside the scope or control of the state and made achievement of some goals impossible. . . .”(p. 71).

“An effective level of state funding to support the plan is needed to make future efforts productive. . . .

“To make maximum use of such funds, state appropriations need to incorporate language to clearly designate funds for minority participation and as nontransferable to other programs within an institution. . . . “(p. 75).

Vera 1988: Report by attorney Ronald T. Vera for the Tomas Rivera Center, “Texas Responds to the Office of Civil Rights: Progress Made under the Texas State Plan for Higher Education.”

“Despite Governor [William] Clements’s assurances, Texas proved recalcitrant in developing an acceptable response and did not submit nor agree to an acceptable statewide plan until July 1983” (p. 2).

“The findings of federal officials in 1981 and the final plan that Texas proposed in 1983 can be traced to a federal court case entitled Adams v. Richardson that had been pending in the District of Columbia since 1970. This was the case that prompted the Office of Civil Rights to investigate Texas, and the development of the Texas plan must be understood in the context of how the Adams case evolved.

“In 1969 the office of Civil Rights found that ten Southern states (excluding Texas) had segregated systems of higher education that violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet the DOE [Department of Education] was reluctant to curtail federal funding for those states or to seek other means of enforcing the law. Because of that reluctance, several Black students and parents filed suit in the District of Columbia, requesting that a judicial order direct the Department of Education to force those states to comply” (p.2).

The District of Columbia Court agreed that DOE had a duty to enforce the law. An appeals court suggested that integration of higher education must be dealt with on a statewide basis, and therefore ordered certain states to adopt coordinated plans for integration.

“Finally, in 1977 the Adams court ordered the DOE to produce a set of guidelines that would help states draft suitable plans” (p. 3).

“That same year, as a result of complaints brought by Hispanics and Blacks, the Department of Education announced that they would scrutinize the alleged discriminatory practices of the higher education systems of Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas” (p. 4).

1978-1981: Review by OCR and the Beginning of Voluntary Affirmative Action

Brown 1981: Letter from Cynthia G. Brown, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; to Mark White, Texas Attorney General; Jan. 15, 1981. A 6-page letter with attachments. “Appendix C,” a 47-page attachment, constitutes the “Statement of Findings” from the 1978-79 investigation of Texas by OCR.

Brown reports that Texas “has failed to eliminate the vestiges of its former de jure racially dual system of public higher education” (p. 3).

Brown announces “provisional” acceptance of a voluntary plan of desegregation, known as “The Texas Plan” (p. 5).

“Under the de jure dual system, all black students in the Texas public system of higher education were required to attend the TBIs [Traditionally Black Institutions] and all white students the TWIs [Traditionally White Institutions]. . . . Although there has been some progress made since 1954 by certain institutions in altering their racial identifiability, nevertheless, we have found that student enrollment continues to reflect the former status of these institutions” (“Appendix C: Statement of Findings,” p. 15).

Texas A&M–24,995 students–0.7 percent black.

Texas Tech–19, 321 students–1.8 percent black.

UT-Austin–33,689 students–2.6 percent black.

SW Texas (Texas State)–13,509 students–3.1 percent black.

(“Appendix C: Statement of Findings,” p. 16).

“The most profound example of continuing racial duality in the Texas system is found in the institutions comprising the Texas A&M University System. The three TWIs in that system (Texas A&M, Tarleton, Moody) have a collective black undergraduate enrollment of under one percent. . . . Within the Texas A&M System, there is also a clear racial identifiability of the institutions. . . . [94.5 percent of all black students attending the Texas A&M University System are students at Prairie View]” (Appendix C: Statement of Findings,” p. 17).

Hubert 1980: Letter from Frank W.R. Hubert, Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System; to members of the Board of Regents; undated. A 5-page letter with two attachments: (1) a 5-page resolution to be adopted by the Board of Regents on Dec. 5, 1980, and (2) a 20 page “Student Enrollment Plan.”

“You will recall that at the last meeting of the Board on November 24, Attorney General White met with the executive committee of the Board regarding his efforts to forestall the mandatory compliance letter regarding desegregation of higher education being sent to our state. At that time, General White laid out the general nature of a Board policy which would be required to launch our efforts in The Texas A&M University System to comply voluntarily with a desegregation plan. Following that discussion, the executive committee directed me to prepare a proposed policy for the Board to consider at its meeting on December 5” (p.1)

“This resolution [the first attachment] has been gone over carefully and thoroughly by James Bond [Texas A&M attorney] and Mr. [Robert] Cherry [Secretary to the Board] has also participated in the review of this policy. I believe it is reasonable for us to adopt this resolution, but I must say to you that the implementation of it will require unusual effort on the part of all parties associated with the System” (p. 3)

“The second enclosure is an illustration of an administrative procedure that would be employed at Texas A&M University to carry out the strong program for the recruitment of minority students. The entire document merits your reading, but the section entitled, “Commitment to Numerical Objectives,” on the bottom of page 2 and the top of page 3 sets a very challenging target for us to accomplish” (p. 4)

“We have been assisted in the development of this resolution and the Texas A&M University minority recruitment plan by Mr. Peter Libissi and members of his legal staff from Washington, D.C., who have been retained by Attorney General White to assist Texas colleges and universities in this activity. They have been extremely helpful in the entire effort and the language of both the resolution and the student enrollment plan for Texas A&M University has been selected intentionally in order to comply with the guidelines for compliance which have been previously announced by the federal government” (p. 4)

“The adoption of this resolution by the Board will be the first official step taken by any governing board in Texas toward voluntary compliance; and, in my view, will go a long way toward excluding Texas from the list of states who are scheduled to receive letters of compliance from the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education. If we can adopt this resolution and begin its good faith implementation, in the company of other major colleges and universities in Texas, this action may well enable us to manager our own affairs in the carrying out of various desegregation activities” (p. 5)

“Attorney General White and Mr. Peter Libissi will be at the Board meeting to discuss this matter with you and to respond to any questions which you may have” (p.5).

“This policy does not nor will not lower the academic standards of the System or its institutions. All students of the Texas A&M University System must continue to be able to meet the existing standards for admission to, retention in, and graduation from the academic programs offered. This policy does not establish quotas. It calls for a good faith effort to expand equal educational opportunities. Should the implementation steps adopted not prove effective in achieving the objectives, new or additional measures will be undertaken. The desire of the Texas A&M University System to enroll, recruit and educate qualified minority students is compatible and consistent with the preservation and protection of the System’s academic standards of excellence” (“Policy,” pp.2-3).

Commitment to Numerical Objectives: Texas A&M University will strive during the next five years to reduce by fifty percent the disparity between the proportions of black and Hispanic high school graduates who enter Texas A&M University and the proportion of white high school graduates who enter Texas A&M University. This objective, if successful, would create an increase in the numbers of black and Hispanic high school graduates admitted during the fifth year of the plan by 525 black and 675 Hispanic undergraduate entrants. As an interim objective, Texas A&M University will strive, in the first academic year following the adoption of this plan, to accomplish one-fifth of those objectives, by enrolling an additional 100 black and 125 Hispanic undergraduate entrants” (“Student Enrollment Plan,” pp. 2-3).

Stuck 1978: Letter from Dorothy D. (?) Stuck, Region VI Director of the Office for Civil Rights; to Dr. Kenneth H. Ashworth, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education; undated; marked “Appendix A,” apparently as part of the Brown 1981 letter above.

Stuck conveys plans to meet with Ashworth on April 4, 1978 at 2:30 p.m. “to discuss our plans for conducting a statewide review of higher education in Texas” (p. 1).

“For the past seven years the Department’s efforts to secure the elimination of remaining vestiges of de jure segregation in higher education have been under court order, and have been limited to the ten states subject to that order [see Vera 1988 above for reference to the Adams case]. On February 2, 1978 Secretary Joseph Califano announced the Department’s plans to conduct reviews in several states, including Texas, which once practiced de jure segregation in higher education, but are not under court order. The Dallas Regional Office has responsibility for conducting the review of Texas” (p. 2).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s