Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. rejected new federal guideliness on college desegregation yesterday for the second time and said he "would never agree on Virginia's behalf to the dismantling of our system of higher education" that he said would result if the new plan were accepted.
The governor's strongly worded comments were in response to a letter he received this week from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare consider taking action against the state if an acceptable plan is not submitted by Feb. 4.
HEW officials estimated yesterday that refusal to comply with the new guideliness could cost the state as much as $75 million in federal aid to higher education. Withdrawal of federal funds is the federal government's ultimate weapon in enforcing its desegregation laws.
At a news conference in Richmond and in a statement issued to reporters, Godwin said his decision to reject the new guidelines rests on solid legal ground and he vowed to take the issue to the courts if necessary.
The governor, who leaves office Jan. 14, said he had consulted with Gov-elect John N. Dalton on the matter. Dalton, who will have to make the final decision on whether to comply with the HEW guidelines by Feb. 4, refused to comment on the issue yesterday. In the past, however, Dalton has been generally supportive of Godwin's position on the issue.
The new HEW guidelines, drawn up in the response to a U.S. District Court order issued last April, essentially require Virginia and five other states to increase the number of blacks enrolled at pre-number of whites at predominantly state-supported white colleges and the number of whites at predominantly black colleges. The guidelines require that the states set forth numerical goals and timetables to achieves these aims.
On Tuesday HEW asked a U.S. District Court judge to grant Virginia and five other states that have submitted unacceptable desegregation plans - Oklahoma - an additional 30 days in which to revise their proposals.
In the case of Virginia, HEW officials say, the 30-day extension was requested only to give Gov-elect Dalton an opportunity to revise Godwin's plan. The officials say the Virginia plan is so had that there is no further point in discussing the issue with the present administration.
Godwin has argued in the pas, and repeated again yesterday, that the "goals" are in reality "quotas" that HEw is trying to impose on the states. HEW's Office for Civil Rights, which is responsible for enforcing the new guidelines, has denied this and says the goals are not "rigid" requirements" that the states must achieve.
"My own position has not changed from that set forth in my responses to HEW," Godwin said a statement yesterday. "I would never agree on Virginia's behalf to the dismantling of our system of higher education by accepting the 'goals' set to be imposed on us by HEW alone."
At his press conference, the governor said he doubted HEW would cut off funding for the state's higherf education programs because other states that have challenged civil rights regulations in the past have not been punished. HEW officials said over the weekend, however, that the department was serious about enforcing the law.
"in light of the nature of these 'goals' as stated above," the governor's statement said, "I will not be a party to an agreement under which HEW will sit in jurgement on Virginia's good faith in carrying out a longstanding pledge of equal opportunity in higher education.