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College desegregation case could close

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A federal judge is expected to issue an order next week that would bring an end to Alabama's long-running college desegregation case, but some oppose the move, saying more still needs to be done.

U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said at a fairness hearing Tuesday that he would deliver an order next week in response to the plaintiffs' proposals to end court proceedings. Attorneys for both sides said they expect him to accept their agreements and dismiss the case, which began in 1981.

"The plaintiffs have not agreed that the vestiges of segregation have been totally eliminated," state Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, a plaintiff, said at the hearing Tuesday. "Rather, we have agreed that the defendant State of Alabama and defendant universities have complied with the decrees issued by the court and that it is not practicable to obtain further relief in court."

Willie Strain also spoke at the hearing in Birmingham federal court, which was held to consider objections to the ending the case.

Strain filed a lawsuit in 1970 that led to a court order banning discrimination at the Auburn University-based Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, where he was assistant director of communications.

He now heads the Alabama Black Faculty Association and said ending the case would thwart progress, including the need for historically white universities and the state's two-year college system to boost their ranks of black faculty and administrators.

Helping students

He also said the state should do more to help low-income black students financially when they attend historically white schools.

Murphy, based in Rome, Ga., has made numerous trips to Alabama during the years to preside over the case, which stemmed from the U.S. Department of Education's 1979 finding that there were still traces of segregation in Alabama's college system.

The federal agency sued the state in 1981 after university leaders failed to agree on a plan to correct the problem.

Plaintiffs alleged there was a lack of programs and facilities and few white students at historically black Alabama A&M in Huntsville and at Alabama State University in Montgomery, and not enough black students, faculty and administrators at the predominantly white schools.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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