OKLAHOMA CITY - Senator Maxine Horner (D-Tulsa) and Representative Don Ross (D-Tulsa) are offering a bill that would provide a workable solution to the fiasco over who controls the Roger's University Tulsa campus. This despite being virtually ignored by the sponsors of other measures addressing the issue.
"It appears that Representative Ross and I are doing nothing when this campus is in both of our districts," said Senator Horner. "That is simply not true. We have a bill and it is substantive."
"I'm rather insulted that there be discussions on a school in my district and about Langston, and I am not consulted," said Representative Ross.
"I am amazed that virtually nothing has been mentioned in the media about our bill," said Senator Horner. "All the other bills dealing with Roger's University in Tulsa are essentially shell bills with no substantive language. House Bill 2361 is the only measure that outlines a concrete plan to resolve this issue."
House Bill 2361 would create the Tulsa State University Consortium. The consortium would be a full member of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.
The bill describes the Legislature's intent that the consortium cooperate with Langston University in operation of the Langston Urban Center Program in Tulsa, and not duplicate the program.
"The Legislative Black Caucus is taking a stand on this issue," said Senator Horner. "The campus is located in my district and Representative Ross' district. Students have flooded my office with calls on this matter. They are overwhelmingly in support of the consortium model. The content of our bill speaks to the calls and letters we are getting from the students being affected."
"I here people saying that there is some kind of agreement on the Roger's University question," said Representative Ross. "There are five members of the Black Caucus and 26 rural legislators who are yet to be consulted on the matter. We are not part of any of those discussions."
Representative Ross contends that Tulsa Senator Charles Ford's bill would have the effect of shutting Langston University down. "Not only would it shut it down," said Ross, "it would throw Oklahoma's system of higher education out of compliance with a civil rights agreement, threatening federal funding."
Ross points to a 1994 U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights letter to then Governor David Walters that states Langston University is protected by a compliance agreement on acceptable plans to desegregate state systems of public higher education.
The letter reads, "If the Office of Civil Rights receives information indicating that a state has not met this affirmative duty, OCR will take appropriate action", which could include a further investigation to ensure there are no remaining vestiges of segregation that are having a discriminatory effect on the basis of race.
"As long as the Black Caucus' views are not heard, as long as the northeast Oklahoma legislative constituency is not heard, there cannot be an agreement on this issue," said Representative Ross. "If those who have kept us out of the debate offer a bill that is hurtful to Langston University, it is likely in trouble in the House of Representatives."
Representative Bob Ed Culver (D-Tahlequah) is throwing his support behind the Ross-Horner measure, which also renames Roger's University in Claremore as Roger's State College.
"I am determined to fight that Northeastern State University and Langston University stay in the consortium," said Representative Culver. "I don't see why we need to allow a board of regents hand-picked by Roger's University leaders, taking them out of the loop of answering to the State Board of Regents for Higher Education. That is dangerous."
"I am not sure that we even need another four-year university in the back door of Langston and Northeastern," said Representative Culver. "It would only serve to take a cut out of the budgets of the other institutions of higher learning in the state. It also wouldn't surprise me to find the Higher Regents asking the Legislature for another tuition increase to make up the difference. Our college students are already paying too much."
Legislative staffers have done extensive research on this bill. The measure takes some ideas from many of the other Roger's University bills.- 30 -