The First Investigation and the First Texas Plan
By Greg Moses
The first civil rights review of Texas higher education began on April 4, 1978, exactly one decade after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Region VI Director of the Office for Civil Rights Dorothy Stuck, accompanied by two associates, arrived at 2:30 p.m. at the Austin office of Texas Higher Education Commissioner Kenneth Ashworth to discuss plans for the upcoming review (Stuck 1978, p.1).
According to Stuck, the Texas review had been initiated by U.S. Secretary of Education Joseph Califano on Feb. 2, 1978, when he announced plans, “to conduct reviews in several states, including Texas, which once practiced de jure segregation in higher education, but are not under court order” (Stuck 1978, pp. 1-2).
Stuck announced plans to visit 18 Texas campuses, and she provided Ashworth with “Revised Criteria Specifying the Ingredients of Acceptable Plans to Desegregate State Systems of Public Higher Education” (see Vera 1988, pp. 3-4).
In the end, OCR found that Texas had not eliminated vestiges of de jure segregation. Federal officials then prepared to issue a formal order for compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI of that Act required “that recipients of Federal financial assistance operate their programs in a nondiscriminatory manner, and also requires them to take affirmative remedial steps to overcome any remaining effects of prior discrimination” (Stuck 1978, p. 1).
Texas Adopts Voluntary Plan
In order to “forestall” a direct federal order to desegregate Texas colleges and universities in 1981, Texas Attorney General Mark White encouraged state leaders to adopt a voluntary plan of action (Hubert 1980, p.1).
“The reason for this response was apparent,” wrote attorney Ronald T. Vera in a later report. “By instigating these voluntary measures, Texas would still be eligible to receive federal funds for higher education and would not run the risk of losing its federal funding in a court hearing” (Vera 1988, pp. 1-2).
Although OCR accepted the concept of a voluntary plan in early 1981, “the final plan reflected thirty months of negotiations, several court orders, and discussions with two state administrations” (Vera 1988, preface).
State officials have since submitted several updates to the “Texas Plan” of 1983. The OCR review, “will make determinations regarding whether the state fulfilled the commitments contained in the 1983 plan,” according to OCR Director of the Dallas Office, Taylor D. August (August 1997, p. 2).
State Admits Static Results
According to Texas officials who issued a 1991 report on the results of the first Texas Plan, minority enrollments had “remained static” (Ashworth 1991, p.2). National trends and the Texas economy had posed insurmountable obstacles. “Although traditionally white institutions have made gains in the numbers of minority undergraduate enrollments, only a few have met their five-year goals, and some have lost ground since the base year of 1978,” said the report.
“The state did, however, meet several of its goals regarding enhancements at the two traditionally black institutions,” reported state officials in 1991. “New academic programs in high-demand, unduplicated areas have been added to both schools, and physical facilities have been greatly improved.”
At Prairie View University and Texas Southern University, faculty salaries were increased. By 1988 PVU faculties were paid better average salaries than comparable colleagues at white campuses. TSU faculty were still making less than their peers on white campuses, but the average deficit had been cut to $1,000 per year (Ashworth 1991, pp. 13 & 29).
Perhaps the most dramatic difference was reported by the historically black Thurgood Marshall School of Law at TSU. As a result of desegregation efforts, black enrollment had been cut by one third from 295 students per year to 187 (Ashworth 1991, p. 22). A campus that had been 73 per cent black was swiftly transformed into a campus 50 per cent black.
TEXAS PLANS REVIEWED
See the official version of the history of the Texas Plans from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Nov. 1997.
Plan One: 1981-1988
See Texas Educational Opportunity Plan for Public Higher Education as approved by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education on June 14, 1983 (THECB).
Plan Two: 1989-1993
See Texas Educational Opportunity Plan for Public Higher Education (THECB).
Plan Three: 1994-2000
Priority Plan to Strengthen Education at Prairie View A&M University and at Texas Southern University in PDF format. See also the schedule of funding in PDF format for three legislative budget cycles ending in 2003, 2005, & 2007).
Producing Plan Four
- See Nov. 1999 THECB committee minutes containing the following text:
(Quote:)Ms. Lynn Rodriguez then made a presentation describing the relationship between the Office for Civil Rights and Texas since the 1970s and the three voluntary plans for integration that Texas adopted since 1983: The original Texas Plan (1983-1988), a second Texas Plan (1989-1993), and Access and Equity 2000 (1994-2000). Ms. Rodriguez then gave some basic statistics about both Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University, and related how the Office for Civil Rights had just completed another investigation of Texas public higher education and identified six key issues with respect to Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University.
Ms. Sandra Stephens and Ms. Angela Hights from the Office for Civil Rights then presented a summary of the issues on which the committee is focused. Ms. Stephens provided a background history of how OCR was involved in investigating Texas and other states and the criteria used in evaluating the higher education system. She specifically cited three factors provided by the Fordice case: 1) the policy or practice is traceable to a de jure segregated system, 2) the policy or practice has a current segregative effect, and 3) the policy can be eliminated without harming the educational process. Ms. Stephens expressed her pleasure that Texas was working collaboratively and openly on the issues raised by the OCR.
Ms. Hights provided a description of the six issues relating to Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University identified by OCR. She provided statistics that suggest current segregation due to past discrimination in the areas of mission, land grant status, program duplication, facilities and other resources, funding, and racial identifiability. Ms. Hights then responded to several questions from the committee members
- See June 14, 2000, statement by Texas legislators expressing optimism and scepticism:
(Quote:) Remember, this is the fourth plan drafted in the past twenty years to address vestiges of discrimination in Texas higher education and little progress has been made to date. In fact, it has been nearly three decades since the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights first found that vestiges of discrimination continued to haunt Texas’ colleges and universities. We have not seen much progress over the years, so it is hard to get too excited about yet another plan.
- See Aug. 25, 2000, report on disparities in faculty salaries prepared by the Prairie View University Faculty Senate containing the following claim:
(Quote:) Faculty at Prairie View have not received an “Across the Board” pay increase in seven years. Within this same time period some faculty members have also received promotions in rank without the requisite and appropriate increase in salary. Our administration responds to this question of pay raises by stating that Faculty members have received “merit” raises within this period. However, there is no policy defining what is a “merit” raise, nor is there any information published listing the number of “merit” raises granted and the amounts of these raises. In many cases a “merit” raise was that awarded to those faculty receiving a promotion in rank, which we believe is a perversion of the idea of a “merit” raise and a disservice to those who deserve a significant raise due to their earned promotion in academic rank.