Black colleges, universities want funds from Ayers appeal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Alcorn State University President Dr. Clinton Bristow said he was always confident the state Supreme Court would uphold a settlement in a 30-year-old desegregation case involving Mississippi’s three historically black universities.

Now the university earlier this year began funding projects under the Ayers case settlement &045;&045; projects for which the state did not set aside funding.

So Bristow said he wants the state Legislature to begin restoring the money as early as January &045;&045; the middle of the fiscal year &045;&045; so the university can continue to operate Ayers programs until June 30.

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&uot;We’re asking the Legislature in January to make us whole,&uot; Bristow said Friday.

Alcorn advanced $1.8 million for preprofessional programs, expansion of the Vicksburg and Natchez campuses and image building and recruiting, Bristow said. He and other historically black university presidents appeared before the College Board Thursday.

The university spent other money on its summer developmental program for students who don’t meet regular admission standards and diversity scholarships to attract nonblack students, he said. The university must reach a 10 percent other-race enrollment over three consecutive years to access endowment dollars.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, has already said Ayers funding will not be available until July 1, the beginning of new fiscal year.

&uot;They’ll get the money they’re entitled, but we will determine when it’s received,” Gordon said Thursday.

The state and most plaintiffs agreed in 2002 to a settlement that would distribute $503 million over 17 years to Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Mississippi Valley State universities.

However, leaders of the three black colleges say they were forced to fund new programs and projects established in the settlement with their own money.

Plaintiffs, including Lillie Ayers, widow of the Jake Ayers Sr., who filed the suit in 1975, fought the settlement. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal in the Ayers desegregation case Monday.

College Board members discussed the funding issue Thursday at their meeting at Delta State University, but did not vote on any proposal.

&uot;In good faith, we didn’t say to a diverse student you can’t come to Alcorn State University because the money is not there,” Bristow told College Board members. ”We went forward with that obligation.”