Case Status: Partial Victory. District court judge modified scholarship to include applicants of any race.

Tompkins v. Alabama State University

  • Federal Appellate Courts

CIR Challenges All-White Scholarships in Alabama

The Center for Individual Rights agreed to represent Mr. Jessie Tompkins, a graduate student at Alabama State University (ASU), in his lawsuit challenging court mandated all-white scholarships at the historically black university.

Mr. Tompkins 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. Tompkins that his assistantship would not be renewed because scholarship funds were needed to support the new all-white “Diversity Scholarships.” Mr. Tompkins 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 challenged 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 Tompkins point of view, things are no better now then they were in 1954.”

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