Two universities defend minorities-only programs

Sunday, March 16, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- The University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Louis University are defending their minorities-only programs despite pressure from two conservative watchdog groups to shutter them.

In letters Friday to the American Civil Rights Institute and the Center for Equal Opportunity, the universities said their enrichment, recruitment or scholarship programs for minority students do not infringe on the constitutional rights of white students.

The two advocacy groups, which oppose racial preferences, had asked the two Missouri universities to respond by Friday. The University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Louis University were the latest targets among two dozen in the nation approached by the groups.

In his letter, Chancellor Richard L. Wallace, writing to the groups Thursday, said the University of Missouri believes its racially exclusive programs are "consistent with current law."

William R. Kauffman, vice president and general counsel at St. Louis University, wrote that its programs are lawful under current legal precedent and guidelines from the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

The Center for Equal Opportunity of Sterling, Va., and the American Civil Rights Institute of Sacramento, Calif., are campaigning jointly to call attention to race-based programs in higher education and pressure colleges either to end them or open them to all students.

They have succeeded so far in getting Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do so. And last week, Virginia Tech enacted a sweeping anti-discrimination policy.

The advocacy groups base their case on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination at institutions that get federal money.

The two Missouri universities set aside certain scholarships for minority students. The University of Missouri offers summer college-prep programs for prospective minority students.

Roger Clegg, general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, said Friday that he had received the University of Missouri's response but not Saint Louis University's.

He said the groups would find out more about the disputed programs and the university's legal case for them.

If the university doesn't provide a satisfactory one, the groups will file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, Clegg said.


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