The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is apparently awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on reverse discrimination before deciding a case involving the hiring of a female professor by a Virginia university.
The case involves a lower court ruling that Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the state's largest schools, was guilty of sex discrimination in hiring the professor. The full circuit court panel of judges heard the case earlier this year.
The case before the Supreme Court involves a white male whose application for admission to a California state medical school was rejected in favor of less qualified minority applicants.
California's highest court had ruled that the applicant, Allan Bakke, had been discriminated against racially because the school had set a quota requiring that a minimum number of minority applicants be accepted.
The Carter administration is considering setting up federal guidelines on quotas, and that fact coupled with a possible Supreme Court ruling against quotas is troubling administrators of a federal program at VCU.
The program is known as Special Services. At VCU it provides aid to about 600 students who, the program director said, probably would not have been admitted to the 13,000-student school if they had been subjected to normal admission standards.
"We don't operate under a quota system per [WORD ILLEGIBLE]" Earl Wheatfall, project director, said. "But we tell VCU every year how many students we can assist and they make room for them. I have carefully looked at this issue and I fear that a ruling against use of quotas in affirmative action programs could have serious ramifications for us."
Special Service assists more than 93,000 students at 346 campuses in the nation. However, David Johnson, head of the national program in Washington, said in a telephone interview that the agency plays no role in student recruitment. "If preferential treatment in admissions is given to the students we aid, we have no knowledge of it," he said.
In Virginia, an attorneys in the state attorney general's office, which is defending VCU's right to show preference for femal applicants in the professor hiring case, says that numerical quotas, such as those applied in the Bakke case, are contrary to Virginia state policy.
In the VCU case, the state and lawyers for the plaintiff stipulated that the college hiring committee separated applications by sex and interviewed only female applicants.
The judge hearing the case at the time accepted this as proof of discrimination and made his ruling accordingly.
It is the appeal of that ruling that the Fourth Circuit judges heard in June.