- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

A report issued in the name of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was improperly released by its chairman, Mary Frances Berry, several of her colleagues said yesterday.
The draft of a study titled "Beyond Percentage Plans: The Challenge of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education," disparages the elimination of race-based admissions at universities and colleges in Texas, Florida and California and says that minority enrollment has dropped in those states.
"This was not put to a vote, and I never even knew it was going to be released," Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom said yesterday.
Miss Berry said at last week's meeting that the six-chapter report was "staff generated" and did not require a vote of approval.
"We never asked the staff to do this report," Mrs. Thernstrom said. "This is a report that is wrong, the numbers are ridiculous, the process is ridiculous. I don't even know what my function is at the commission. There are reports being worked on and issued that we don't even know about in advance."
Mrs. Thernstrom is one of four Republican members of the commission who opposed the release of the report last week on the commission's Web site.
The four are frequently at odds with the Democratic-leaning Miss Berry and the three other panel members.
The last report the commission issued as a group compiled and released with a Democratic-leaning majority in place was last year's study blaming Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and several other state officials for failing to protect the voting rights of blacks in that state.
Miss Berry and staff director Les Jin a Clinton appointee who oversees staff reports yesterday declined to comment on the education report.
"We never even had a chance to write a dissent," said Russell Redenbaugh, another Republican commissioner. "We had a look at it at last week's meeting, but we were told it was only a draft. This is not a draft it is out there as a report. And it looks as if we, as a commission, approved of the material in it. Which not all of us do."
The percentage plans end affirmative-action policies and replace them with guaranteed admission to the top 4 percent of graduates at California high schools, to the top 10 percent in Texas and to the top 20 percent in Florida.
According to the report, minority students in those three states are faring worse or no better than they were under affirmative-action programs.
"If percentage plans grow in popularity, it is inevitable that the number of minority students attending the most prestigious public universities will decrease," Miss Berry said in a statement. "Simply guaranteeing admission to a certain percentage of students is not enough; the plans must be supplemented with proactive recruitment, financial aid, outreach and academic support programs."
Officials in Florida and California yesterday disputed the conclusion of the report.
"More minority students are in the state's higher education system today than there were three years ago," said Elizabeth Hirst, a spokesman for the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at whose behest the percentage plan "One Florida" was implemented by the state legislature as a replacement for race-based college admissions.


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