Ayers Case Moves On

The lead attorney in the Ayers case, Alvin Chambliss, said he's not against the $503 million settlement. However, he argues that it should be based on criteria from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and not just the 14th Amendment.

Chambliss said the Civil Rights Act would give the settlement more ''teeth'' and require equal expansion efforts at all universities for years to come.

"We have been waiting a long time. We are nearing the end of it. We think the sand has finally run through the hour glass," said Alcorn State University president, Dr. Clinton Bristow.

"We hope the appellate process is almost over and we hope that the funds that were committed to Alcorn State University in the Ayers settlement agreement will flow to us during the course of the fiscal year that starts in July," added Bristow.

Of the $503 million settlement, Alcorn being one of the state's three historically black universities is set to receive about a third of that equaling about $166 million.

Although most of the funds are tied up, Dr. Bristow said to date the university has received about $6 million from the case, funds which have been used to add new academic programs and upgrade facilities.

With a second newly-opened satellite campus in nearby Vicksburg, school officials say ultimately what benefits Alcorn, benefits the state.

"Alcorn is the epicenter of southwest Mississippi. What we are nearby is that we're the cultural hub, social hub and intellectual hub in this area," Bristow said. "As a result, it means that we have to be an integral player in bringing new industry into this part of the state."

Bristow said he refers to Alcorn as a "communiversity." Aside from locals being able to fish in the five lakes on campus, the university's agriculture department has a program to develop ten acres of land into crops. This is done to show farmers how they can not only make a living but also a profit.

The university's agriculture department is now also making its own hot sauce. Officials say they hope to have program up and running so that within the next year local pepper farmers can process and bottle the own hot sauce on campus.

Dr. Bristow said developments prove the importance of support for all state universities.

"In the state of Mississippi we don't have one flagship, we have eight flagships. So, we need the support and advocacy," said Bristow.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.