University of Wisconsin Defends Admissions Policy That Considers Applicant’s Race

Although the University of Wisconsin’s new admissions policy that considers the race of the applicant has been widely panned, a spokesman for the system said the policy is more holistic than race-based.

David F. Giroux says the new policy was no more a race-based policy than it was a veterans-based or a football player-based policy.

The university system’s board of regents recently approved a policy that takes into account factors besides standardized test scores and GPA. Among the new considerations are “status as a non-traditional student; status as a veteran of the U.S. military; whether the applicant is socioeconomically disadvantaged; and whether the applicant is a member of an historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group.”

“The policy looks at the entire person, so it doesn’t make sense to ignore their ethnicity or background,” says Giroux. “We’re not a race-blind society. To say we’re color-blind is to ignore reality.”

He adds that claims of unqualified minority students being admitted over qualified Whites are false. Thousands of qualified students are rejected from UW-Madison, regardless of race, he says.

“But it is a bell curve of all kinds of students who get accepted,” says Giroux. “Where is the moral outrage of unqualified White students who are accepted?”

Regent president David Walsh released a statement encouraging regents and others to remember the importance of diverse student environments on the educational process.

“Diversity isn’t just race,” the statement said. “It’s geography. It’s handicapped. It’s the veterans. It’s the football player. They all bring something to this campus. It’s about having a better educational experience for our students.”

Ethnicity

Number

Fall 2004

Percent

Fall 2004

Number

Fall 2005

Percent

Fall 2005

Asian

5,295

3.29

5,471

3.36

Black

4,491

2.79

4,587

2.82

Hispanic

3,529

2.19

3,663

2.25

American Indian

1,095

0.68

1,210

0.74

Other/White*

146,387

91.04

148,002

90.84

Total

160,797

100.00

162,933

100.00

*Other/White enrollment includes International students and students whose race is unknown.

Source: University of Wisconsin

Officials have acknowledged receiving threats of lawsuits over the new policy, and a Ward Connerly-backed referendum is looming, similar to laws that passed in California, Michigan and Washington. The Wisconsin Legislature has also threatened the state’s flagship institution with budget cuts and is considering constitutional amendments.

According to a local ABC news station affiliate, state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, criticized the new policy but also said he might propose a compromise where only applicants of one racial minority would receive special consideration in admissions decisions.

“I think our society is used to giving preference to African-Americans,” Grothman told 27 News. “But why in the world would we give preferences to Hispanics, who’ve just come here?”

Giroux says the new policy isn’t about giving racial groups preferences. “The policy is in effect more rigorous and more fair than ever before. It is a shift from an unfair advantage.”

Giroux says the university did not want to continue a purely mechanical admissions process

By Shilpa Banerji

 

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