MADISON, Wis. – Black and Hispanic applicants were more likely to be accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison even though they had lower average test scores than White and Asian applicants, according to an analysis by a conservative group.
The school’s admissions data from 2007 to 2008 were analyzed by the Center for Equal Opportunity, based in Falls Church, Va. It found that the university admitted roughly seven out of 10 Black applicants and eight out of 10 Hispanic applicants, compared to about six out of 10 White and Asian applicants.
The group also found a disparity in ACT scores, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Of students admitted in 2008, Black students had an average score of 25 and Hispanics had 26, while Whites averaged 29 and Asians 30, the study found.
“This is the most severe undergraduate admissions discrimination that (the Center for Equal Opportunity) has ever found in the dozens of studies it has published over the last 15 years,” said Linda Chavez, chairwoman of the center.
The group, which opposes affirmative action, was scheduled to release its results Tuesday.
UW-Madison officials say the analysis focuses too narrowly on academics to the exclusion of other important factors. They also said they intentionally give preference to qualified students in targeted minority groups in order to produce a diverse class with rich perspectives.
“It’s been a longstanding commitment at UW-Madison to have students from a range of backgrounds,” admissions director Adele Brumfield said. “We believe it adds value to everyone’s experience in and out of the classroom.”
Brumfield said UW-Madison defines diversity to include race as well as other factors, including whether a student is a first-generation college student or from a rural area.
Two U.S. Supreme Court cases set the precedent for racial preferences in admissions. One found that a point system of preferences was unconstitutional, and the other determined that universities could consider race in admissions decisions as long as it was one of many factors.
“It is not inappropriate to consider race and ethnicity as long as it’s done in a proper holistic review taking into account all factors that the institution considers relevant to its mission and not using quotas,” said Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education.
e Center for Equal Opportunity, along with emeritus UW-Madison math professor J. Marshall Osborn, first requested admissions data from UW-Madison as far back as 1998. The university argued that releasing the data would violate student privacy, but the state Supreme Court overruled that argument in 2002.