CIR challenges all-white scholarships in Alabama

Washington, D.C.- The Center for Individual Rights, the public interest law firm that successfully represented Cheryl Hopwood in her discrimination lawsuit against the University of Texas School of Law, agreed today to represent Mr. Jessie Thompkins, a graduate student at Alabama State University(ASU), in his lawsuit challenging all-white scholarships at ASU.

Mr. Thompkins received a Graduate Assistantship Scholarship from ASU in 1992. In 1995, District Court Judge Harold Murphy issued a decision in the case Knight v. Alabama, mandating the creation of white-only scholarships at ASU. ASU subsequently informed Mr. Thompkins that his assistantship would not be renewed, because scholarship funds were needed to support the new all-white “Diversity Scholarships.” Mr. Thompkins then attempted to apply for a Diversity Scholarship, but was informed by the ASU administration that he was ineligible because he was black.

The white-only Diversity Scholarship offers full financial support for up to 7 years (room, board, books, life and health insurance, student fees, and incidental monetary benefits)and is far more lucrative than the Graduate Assistantship awarded Mr. Tompkins, which offers a limited number of $3,600-$6,100 awards, and requires 20-25 hours of work per week.

CIR will be challenging the use of race-exclusive scholarships to alter the school’s racial identity, and what the district court referred to as “perceptions of inferiority.” Michael S. Greve, Executive Director of the Center for Individual Rights, said “To our minds, government policy that excludes Blacks from benefits because of their skin color can’t be constitutional. From Jessie Thompkins point of view, things are no better now then they were in 1954.”