UGA Passes Up Chance to Appeal Admissions Policy Decision
School officials are still considering Supreme Court action.
The University of Georgia has only one option left — the U.S. Supreme Court — if it will appeal a federal court ruling that declared its admissions policy unconstitutional because it considers race.
Georgia let a Sept. 17 deadline pass without appealing to the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following a three-judge panel’s ruling in late August.
School officials say they are still considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. It has until Nov. 26 to attempt an appeal.
University System Chancellor Stephen Portch, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker and school President Michael Adams “are still considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” UGA spokesman Tom Jackson says.
The appeals court panel ruled that the university’s policy, which awarded race-based points to borderline students, violated the Constitution’s equal-protection clause. The decision upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of three White women who were denied admission in 1999.
“The policy that was in place was functioning as a quota,” says Lee Parks, an attorney for the women who challenged the practice. “Under any set of rules that would be unconstitutional.”
The university system’s recent budget request for $7 million from the state to expand recruiting of Blacks and more nontraditional students shouldn’t be viewed as dropping the court case, says Marc Cohen, one of the attorneys representing the school.
“They’re still very much committed to exploring all possible legal ways to find diversity at the University of Georgia,” Cohen says.
“Nobody thought the full 11th Circuit would reverse the three-judge panel,” says Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education. “It’s rare.”
Adams told a group of Black leaders last week that the university is “operating between a rock and a hard place” with public perceptions about UGA as a place hostile to minorities.
The university has struggled for years to boost Black enrollment. Blacks make up about 6 percent of the student body, while the state population is more than 25 percent Black. About 13 percent of the student body is non-White.
Under the admissions policy, 90 percent of students are accepted by grades and test scores alone. The rest are assigned points on factors ranging from alumni relatives to race, with non-White applicants getting a boost.
University officials had argued that campus diversity is a compelling state interest and that the policy helps remedy a long history of discrimination. No Black students were allowed at Georgia until 1961.
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