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WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY WINS COURT CASE OVER ENGLISH PROFICIENCY EXAM

 DETROIT, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A Wayne County Circuit Court jury today (Jan. 14) decided in favor of Wayne State University's English Proficiency Exam as a fair requirement for graduation from the university.
 University President David Adamany said that the result upheld the university's right to set academic standards.
 "It assures the citizens and taxpayers of the state of the high quality of a degree from Wayne State University," Adamany said. "The test is a solid measure of writing proficiency."
 Adamany further said that: "While we are pleased that our examination of English language skills has been upheld in court, we do not take much pleasure in this case. It reminds us again that many students enter college with weak English skills, and it redoubles our determination that college requirements should emphasize a high level of English proficiency for all students."
 The English Proficiency Exam has been in place for more than 30 years. It is used to assure that students have sufficient English writing skills after two years of college to undertake the remainder of the undergraduate curriculum. The test was challenged first in 1989 by a former student who failed the test seven times. That student, Martina Gifford, was joined in the suit by a second student, Otis Mathis, who failed three times. They alleged the test was culturally biased to the disadvantage of black students. Both former students are black.
 The eight-member jury, composed of five white and three black jurors, voted unanimously in favor of the university. The jury deliberated less than two hours after a seven-week trial.
 "The jury was asked specifically to comment about the cultural bias question," said attorney Daniel Bernard, WSU's acting vice president and general counsel. "They answered that the English Proficiency Exam had no disparate impact on black students."
 In discussions with members of the jury, Bernard learned that they felt the plaintiffs' case was based almost entirely on emotion and sympathy while the university's attorneys focused on the facts surrounding the exam.
 "They told me that WSU had 'bent over backwards' to construct and administer a fair exam," Bernard said. "In fact, the jury found that the different passing rates were the result of inadequate preparation of the students before college -- in high school."
 He credited outside counselors Jerome Hill and Andre Mayes of the Detroit law firm of Kirk and McCargo for presenting a strong case. The attorneys brought in outside experts, including William Mehrens, an expert in the development and administration of competency tests; Lawrence Zatkin, a vocational counselor and Dr. Dexter Fields, a psychiatrist, to testify about the fairness of the test and the lack of harm to the plaintiffs.
 The jury trial does not conclude the matter. One of the charges will be decided by the judge alone.
 The plaintiffs allege that the test is "arbitrary and capricious," said Bernard, "and violates their right to substantive due process. That's a constitutional question that Judge Samuel Turner will decide based upon written arguments from both sides."
 Briefs on that question are due Jan. 27, he said, and the judge will rule separately on that question.
 The university awards more than 5,000 degrees every year. Only a small number of students fail the English Proficiency Exam, and help is available to those who fail. Most students who initially fail the test take it again and pass the test after additional coursework or tutoring.
 -0- 1/14/93
 /CONTACT: Robert Wartner of Wayne State University, 313-577-2150/


CO: Wayne State University ST: Michigan IN: SU:

JG-KE -- DE015 -- 5076 01/14/93 17:08 EST
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