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Landmark agreement ends racial quotas, gives TSU $75 million

January 8, 2001

With the settlement of Geier v. the state of Tennessee, racial enrollment targets in place since 1984 were lifted from Austin Peay and other public colleges and universities, and TSU was promised $75 million in state money to recruit additional white students and improve its image.

The ruling also opens some windows of opportunity for Austin Peay, says Dr. Sherry Hoppe, interim president. “Previously, we were totally precluded from offering some master's degrees, such as an MBA or a master's degree in nursing. According to the court's ruling, if any Middle Tennessee school, including Austin Peay, can demonstrate a need for such a program and that existence of the program wouldn't adversely affect enrollment in at TSU, then TBR and THEC approval is possible.”

Signing of the Jan. 4 agreement ended a 32-year-old lawsuit filed by Rita Sanders Geier in 1968. Geier, then a 23-year-old instructor at TSU, sued the state and federal governments to halt construction of a planned University of Tennessee campus in Nashville.

The lawsuit led in 1984 to the establishment of racial quotas at all 10 of Tennessee's public four-year universities, including TSU, which was charged with increasing its enrollment of white students by 50 percent. White students now make up about 16 percent of TSU's enrollment.

The agreement, signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Sundquist, and other state officials, requires that Tennessee invest up to $75 million in TSU over the next 10 years. Money to carry out the agreement would not come from Tennessee's existing higher-education funds, according to Gov. Don Sundquist's office, but from general appropriations.

Under the terms of the settlement, the state will assist TSU in its efforts to recruit more white students by providing the following:

*$400,000 for an intensive two-year marketing campaign
*$10 million for an endowment to fund merit-based scholarships, faculty development, research grants and library improvements
*an additional $10 million in funds to match private gifts to the endowment
*$3.75 million for scholarships for evening and weekend students
*$17 million to start a public law school at the university
*Unspecified amounts of money for renovations of TSU's Avon Williams campus at 10th and Charlotte avenues

“Much of the state appropriation will require TSU to generate private matching funds,” Dr. Hoppe noted.

Other stipulations of the agreement reduced tuition at TSU for any Tennessean who graduated from a Davidson County community college, limited MTSU's ability to expand doctoral programs, prohibit MTSU from offering for-credit courses anywhere in Davidson County, prevent public schools from offering similar programs to those offered by TSU's downtown campus (which would focus on serving nontraditional students), and called for Austin Peay to work with TSU and MTSU to create a common calendar.

“The mandated coordination of academic calendars will make transferring easier,” said Dr. Hoppe. “We're working on a 3 + 2 program with TSU that parallels Austin Peay's dual-degree program with UT-Knoxville. Calendar coordination will benefit that program's participants.”

The settlement, in effect, lifts the mandate for minority quotas in state colleges and universities. "While Austin Peay has been successful in attracting African-American faculty, staff and students, we can't rest on our laurels," said Dr. Hoppe. "Studies are being done to determine how Austin Peay can continue its already-successful efforts, and plans will be developed to address any problems that are identified.”