Provided, that the provisions of 70 Okla. Stat. Ann. (1950) §§ 455, 456, 457, shall not apply to programs of instruction leading to a particular degree given at state-owned or state-operated colleges or institutions of higher education of the State of Oklahoma established for and/or used by the white race, where such programs of instruction leading to a particular degree are not given at colleges or institutions of higher education of the State established for and/or used by the colored race, provided further, that said programs of instruction leading to a particular degree shall be given at such colleges or institutions of higher education upon a segregated basis. Segregated basis is defined as classroom instruction given in separate classrooms, or at separate times.
A Negro citizen of Oklahoma possessing a master's degree was admitted to the Graduate School of the state-supported University of Oklahoma as a candidate for a doctorate in education and was permitted to use the same classroom, library and cafeteria as white students. Pursuant to a requirement of state law, 70 Okla. Stat. (1941) §§ 455, 456, 457, that the instruction of Negroes in institutions of higher education be "upon a segregated basis," however, he was assigned to a seat in the classroom in a row specified for Negro students, was assigned to a special table in the library, and, although permitted to eat in the cafeteria at the same time as other students, was assigned to a special table there. The student filed a complaint requesting injunctive relief, alleging that the action of the school authorities and the statutes upon which their action was based were unconstitutional and deprived him of the equal protection of the laws.
Can a state treat a student differently from other students solely because of race?
The Court held that a state could not treat a student differently from other students on the basis of race as the Fourteenth Amendment precludes such differences in treatment. In this case, the Court found that the State of Oklahoma had set the plaintiff student apart from the other students. The result was that he was handicapped in his pursuit of effective graduate instruction. Such restrictions impaired and inhibited his ability to study, to engage in discussions, exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession. The Court concluded that the conditions under which appellant were required to receive his education deprived him of his personal and present rights to the equal protection of the laws.