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"Lillie M. Fears, Ph.D." <[log in to unmask]>
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Lillie M. Fears, Ph.D.
Thu, 28 Sep 2006 09:52:04 -0500
text/plain (125 lines)

Given that it is panel proposal time, thought some of you might be
interested in using the disturbing news from the article below for a
proposal idea.

-- Lillie Fears, MAC Head

Advocacy Group Challenges Program for Minority Journalists as Discriminatory

Tuesday, September 26, 200
The Chronicle of Higher Education

An advocacy group plans to file a federal lawsuit today challenging a summer
program for minority student journalists operated by Virginia Commonwealth
University, the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, and the publisher of the Richmond

 The program is one of at least 20 for minority high-school students
operated by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in connection with colleges around
the nation. For nearly 40 years, the fund has helped finance the programs
with the intent of inspiring minority students to pursue careers in
newspaper journalism.

 The Center for Individual Rights, which has been a leader in the fight
against affirmative action, alleges that the Virginia Commonwealth
University Urban Journalism Workshop engages in illegal racial
discrimination by excluding white students. It argues that the program's
race-exclusive eligibility criteria violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law, as well as
various federal civil-rights statutes, including Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination by
educational institutions that receive federal funds.

 Virginia Commonwealth's legal department declined comment Monday, saying it
would not respond to a lawsuit that it had not yet seen. A university
spokeswoman, Pamela Lepley, would say only that the summer workshop in
question was "a very well-respected program" and "a very good program that
we have been involved with for more than two decades."

 Richard Holden, executive director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, refused
to comment on the lawsuit or to say whether the two-week Virginia
Commonwealth program and others like it are race-exclusive. The Dow Jones
Newspaper Fund is supported through the contributions of Dow Jones & Company
(publisher of The Wall Street Journal), the Dow Jones Foundation, and other
newspaper publishers around the nation. Newspapers help pay for many of the
other summer journalism programs supported by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund,
and in some cases provide the programs with instructors.

 The lawsuit the Center for Individual Rights expects to file today wouldn't
mark the first time a college program for minority students has encountered
opposition. Two other advocacy groups, the Center for Equal Opportunity and
the American Civil Rights Institute, began challenging race-exclusive
college programs in late 2002, but their avenue of attack has typically been
to send colleges letters urging them to open the programs up to members of
any race and threatening to file a discrimination complaint with the
Education Department's Office for Civil Rights if the colleges fail to do
so. Nearly all of the more than 100 colleges that the groups have contacted
so far have complied with the demands.

 The Center for Individual Rights has been heavily involved in the fight
against race-conscious college admissions, helping to represent the
plaintiffs in key federal lawsuits challenging such policies at the
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Texas at Austin, and
at the University of Washington.

 In an interview Monday, Terence J. Pell, the center's president, said the
lawsuit challenging the Virginia Commonwealth program was "sort of the
logical next step" in the fight against race-exclusive programs. He argued
that the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 rulings in the two lawsuits his group
helped bring against the University of Michigan established once and for all
that colleges could not operate programs that excluded members of any
ethnicity or race. Although the Supreme Court reaffirmed that colleges could
give some consideration to applicants' race or ethnicity for the sake of
promoting racial diversity, race-exclusive programs "produce just the
opposite" by creating environments that consist solely of members of certain
favored minority groups, he said.

 In cases where race-exclusive programs are operated by colleges in tandem
with businesses or philanthropies, those involved "all sort of point fingers
at each other" when accused of discrimination, and argue that some other
participant in the effort is requiring race exclusivity, Mr. Pell alleged.
He said the lawsuit named as defendants everyone involved with the Virginia
Commonwealth program, including the university, Richmond Times-Dispatch
publisher Media General Inc., and individuals who helped finance and
administer the summer workshop, because "it is necessary to bring everybody
into court and solve this once and for all on the record."

 The plaintiff in the case, Emily Smith, is a junior at Monacan High School,
in Virginia's Chesterfield County, who submitted an application to
participate in the Virginia Commonwealth summer program last March. The
lawsuit alleges that Virginia Commonwealth initially notified Ms. Smith that
she had been accepted for the workshop but then rescinded its offer after
one of its faculty members called Ms. Smith, asked her race, and learned
that she was white. The lawsuit asks that Ms. Smith, a 15-year-old with
muscular dystrophy, be awarded damages because Virginia Commonwealth's
actions wasted her time, caused her emotional distress, and closed
educational opportunities to her.

 The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund's guidelines for newspapers and colleges
involved with such summer workshops say "each participant must be a minority
(defined as U.S. citizens who are black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific
Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native.)"

 Among the other colleges involved in similar programs this past summer were
Florida A & M University, Kent State University, Marquette University,
Monmouth University, New York University, San Francisco State University,
Seattle University, the University of Alabama, the University of Arizona,
the University of Kentucky, the University of Miami, the University of
Missouri, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

-- Lillie Fears
Associate Professor of Journalism
Arkansas State University
POB 2733
State University, AR 72467
870.972-3321 (FAX)