The Virginia State Council of Higher Education refused yesterday to approve Gov. John N. Dalton's five year plan to further desegregate publicly supported colleges in the state.
Several council members, many of whom said they didn't want to "offend" the governor nor appear "abrasive" about his plan, nonetheless voiced disagreement with it.
Some said they doubted whether the timetables set for implementing the plan could be met, while others questioned the method to be used to eliminate duplication of academic programs that now exist at nearby predominantly black and predominantly white institutions.
While the council, which is the coordinating agency for the state's 39 publicly supported colleges and universities, criticized Dalton's desegregation proposal, it unanimously voted to "accept (its) responsibilites" under the plan if the board of visitors at the respective schools implement it.
Dalton, in submitting the college desegretation plan to the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare last month, said the plan needed the approval of the council before it could be started. Later, he said the council's approval was not needed to implement the plan because the agency is a coordinating panel with no legal authority over the respective boards of visitors.
Under the plan, Virginia has agreed to increase black enrollment at its predominantly white institutions by 150 per cent, or 1,602 students, during the next five years.
The plan also requires the state to encourage white students to enroll in the state's two overwhelmingly black institutions, Norfolk State College and Virginia State College in Petersburg. However, a numerical enrollment goal for these colleges will not be set until 1979.
The plan also calls for the strenghtening of the two black institutions by giving them more programs and resources. In addition, a study is planned of the course offerings at the four colleges in the Tidewater area - Norfolk State, Old Dominion University, Christopher Newport College and Tidewater Community College - in an effort to eliminate duplication of programs.
Several members of the Council said they were opposed to the plan.
In an editorial in yesterday's Roanoke Times & World-News, Frank Batten, vice chairman of the council, said the plan "is a mixed bag. Many of the commitments that Virginia made are constructive. Some are foolish but probably harmless. Others are gambles. But the most critical commitment in the plan could damage higher education in Tidewater and has frightening implications for all Virginia colleges."
Batten, who is chairman of the board of Landmark Communications Inc., which publishes the Roanoke paper, said, "The schedule (Calling) for the Tidewater study (to be completed by July 31) reveals the haste and carelessness with which the Virginia plan was drawn."
Batten, who was board chairman of Old Dominion University for eight years, was absent from yesterday's meeting.
"I don't want anybody to think that his (plan) is simple as they have slapped it together," said J. Harvie Wilkinson Jr., another council member. "I see some things they didn't see."