Courting Scholarship Money 

Minority funding discontinued at the University of Memphis.

Prospective students eligible for the Distinguished African American, African-American Scholar, and African-American Enrichment scholarships at the University of Memphis may be out of luck next school year.

The scholarships, enacted as part of a settlement agreement dating back to the 1968 Rita Sanders Geier lawsuit, will cease to exist next fall.

Geier, then a professor at predominantly-black Tennessee State University, filed a claim in an attempt to end the effective segregation of Tennessee's public colleges and universities. The state of Tennessee then established a series of programs, including several scholarships, designed for more effective long-term racial integration. The "other race" scholarships, for instance, would provide an incentive for minority students to voluntarily integrate schools without resorting to racial-quota legislation.

But more recently, two 2003 U.S. Supreme Court cases out of Michigan -- Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- held that "other race" scholarships such as the ones stipulated by Geier are illegal.

"Based on the legal precedents set by the Michigan cases, we would be under scrutiny if we continued to offer 'other race' scholarships," says Michelle Banks, Equal Employment and Affirmative Action officer for the U of M.

Exactly what effect the cancellation of these scholarships will have, however, is unclear.

"There is one group of people telling us that we're going to get the money, and there's another group of people telling us that we're not," Banks says. "Before, the recipients of African-American scholarships received the funds from their scholarships, thereby not competing for university funds. But now, everyone will be competing for the same money."

Other school administrators, however, say that the changes will have "little to no impact" on how they award scholarships.

Rhodes College political science professor Marcus Pohlmann says that simply rerouting the existing money into need-based aid could maintain the spirit of the Geier scholarships. "It still may serve many of the same students and just proxy for race as such moves have done elsewhere," he explains.

Still, eliminating the scholarships will probably carry some consequences.

"This might deter some African-American students from coming," says University of Memphis junior William Terrell, who cited his Distinguished African-American Scholarship as the main reason he attended the U of M.

Pohlmann agrees. "Will it cost the U of M some of its better black students who are better off and have choices of schools? It may."

"But," he adds, "other schools are going this same route. It's not that unusual."

All 193 students currently receiving funding from the scholarships, however, will continue to do so as long as they abide by the guidelines of their individual programs.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • LGBTQ Care

      OUTMemphis starts new shelter for homeless, LGBTQ youth.


Tiger Blue

NIT: Creighton 79, Tigers 67

News Blog

U of M Announces New Tuition Structure

We Saw You

A Great Day for the Irish - and Beale Street. And more!

Intermission Impossible

Farce Meets Horror in a Top Notch Radiant Vermin

News Blog

State: Keto, Paleo Diets Boon to Tennessee Farmers

News Blog

Memphis Ranked on Dog Parks

Politics Beat Blog

If It's a Thursday Night in March, There Must Be Candidate Events

Hungry Memphis

Barbarossa Brothers Opening Downtown

Film/TV/Etc. Blog



More by Zac Hill

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation