Whites-Only Scholarship At Black College, Alabama State, Stirs Controversy
Several Black students at the predominantly Black Alabama State University (ASU) in Montgomery, AL, say a Whites-only scholarship program is unfair and unnecessary.
It has been a heated topic at the university since 1995 when a federal court ordered the Whites- only scholarships. The first class of White students recently graduated along with their Black classmates.
Since 1995, the university has been reimbursed up to $ 1 million a year for scholarships for Whites.
The scholarship program is the result of a settlement reached in a race discrimination case filed by ASU and Alabama A&M University, also a Black college.
A federal judge ordered the state to increase funding after the two Black colleges accused the state of operating two systems of higher education, one for Blacks and one for Whites. The judge also ordered the two Black colleges to start programs to enroll more White students.
One Black student, Rhonda Turner, recently told "60 Minutes" that she finds the subsidizing of White students at ASU offensive.
Turner said what the court order is "saying is that we need White students here in order to eliminate the perception of inferiority. As if they are going to go back home and tell their parents and other members of their community, 'Hey, this is a good school.' We don't need that. We don't need White students here in order to say we are a qualified school."
Jessie Tompkins, a Black graduate student at ASU, has filed a suit in federal court challenging the scholarship program. Tompkins maintains that any scholarship program that excludes Blacks is unfair.
Some Black leaders feel, however, that the conservative Washington, D.C.-based organization, Center for Individual Rights, which is representing Tompkins, actually wants to eliminate affirmative action.
Elaine Jones, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told "60 Minutes," "I believe that the Center for Individual Rights has an agenda that is going to move us back toward separate and unequal."
Several Black students also maintain that the White students on the scholarship are less qualified than they are and that the university is only lowering its academic standards.
Meanwhile, one White student, Karen Heiss, who is receiving the scholarship, said on "60 Minutes" that the Whites-only scholarship program is unfair.
"I think it is definitely unfair that we're here based on the fact that we're White and we are given money to be here because we are White," she said.
"However, I wasn't going to pass up the chance to have a free education. I am not stupid, I just don't think it is fair."