The former director of a $120 million federal aid program for developing colleges charged yesterday that he was ordered to make no cuts in grants to predominantly black colleges regardless of how their programs were evaluated.
Edward J. Brantley told a congressional subcommittee that the directive not to cut black college funds was part of a pattenn of "too much changing and interfering" he encountered from his superiors.
Brantley, who was removed from his post Nov. 21, said his superiors overruled staff recommendations and changed about 175 of the 407 college grants his office made this year. He said the changes were made "without knowledge of the (grant) proposals" and without any written explanations.
Brantley's charges were largely confirmed by other witnesses at the hearing yesterday before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee headed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Associate Education Commissioner Alfred Moye, one of the men Bradley accused, said he became involved in the grant awards because Brantley's staff work was "absolutely abominable."
Deputy Associate Commissioner Leonard H. O. Spearman, who also acknowledged disregarding the recommendations made by Brantley's staff analysts and independent evaluators, said Brantley's first list of proposed awards was "replete with errors of all magnitudes."
"We made a number of changes," Spearman said, "because changes were required . . . [Something] may appear to be an arbitrary and capricious decision, but we were trying to deal with what real life is inside an institution." Spearman acknowledged he personally read only three or four grant proposals before making the changes.
Brantley, a former president of predominantly black Knoxville College in Tennessee, said the order not to cut back funding for any black colleges was made in July by Mary Berry, an assistant secretary of health, education and welfare. He said it was relayed to him by Spearman.
Brantley said he did not think the order which was never placed in writing was "sound program practice." Decisions on grants to particular schools "should be made on their merits," he said.
Berry, who has resigned effective Jan. 31, said through a spokesman yesterday that she would have no comment on Brantley's testimony until she could see a transcript of his remarks.
Spearman, under questioning by Baucus, said the policy about grants to black colleges stemmed from a directive issued by President Carter last January.
"It was very possible," Spearmas said, "that the office of Education interpreted [Carter's order] to mean that black colleges should receive no less than they received a year ago."
Baucus commented that the 1965 legislation establishing the developing college aid program provided no special treatment for predominantly black colleges.
"I think all institutions should be treated similarly," Baucus declared. "Whether a school is black or not black should not be relevant. The question should be does a college serve its students and does it qualify for the aid. I hope that in the future this program will be more color-blind that it has been in the past."
In an interview, Moye said 88 predominantly black colleges are participating in the developing institution program this year. He said black colleges were given about 47.5 percent of the $120 million awarded to 407 schools from 1979 funds.
At a hearing Baucus held on Nov. 14, Brantley said repeatedly that he did not know why the amount of money given to particular colleges had been charged from his staff recommendations. Yesterday he said he testified that way because Spearman and Moye simply "directed" him to make the changes without saying why.
Brantley said that when Berry removed him from his job on Nov. 21 she told him that his testimony had been "dismal". She said, "My presence might jeopardize the funding of the program" by Congress, Brantley said.
For the past three weeks, Brantley said, he has been working on a "research project" in a small office without a window or a secretary, even though he is continuing to draw his $50,000 a-year salary.
Berry has placed Moye in direct charge of the developing institution program.