U.Va.’s Office of Admissions affirms commitment to race-conscious admission policy

Supreme Court cases puts affirmative action into question

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The Supreme Court decided Tuesday to uphold the state of Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning affirmative action policies for admissions to its public colleges, giving rise to potential for other states to pursue similar legislation.

Though the court avoided deciding if race could play a role in admissions when it remanded Fisher v. University of Texas last June, sending it back to a lower court, the Court has supported the use of race-conscious admission policies in its previous decision in Gutter v. Bollinger in 2003.

Writing about the University’s own admissions process, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Greg Roberts affirmed the University’s commitment to a “holistic” process which includes race as a criterion to evaluate applicants.

“Race is one of many, many factors considered when reading an application,” he said in an email. “It is certainly not the most important factor, or close to it. There are no quotas, formulas, or racial enrollment targets in our holistic admission review. We believe that the use of race, as one of many factors, is important to our ability to enroll a diverse class. We continue to explore and use race neutral policies as well.”

Roberts said the high rates of success African American students at the University show that they are admitted for much more than just their race.

“The fact that U.Va. has the highest African American graduation rate at a public university for nearly 20 years is an indication that we continue to admit outstanding African American students who are highly successful during their time at the University,” he said.

The Office of Admission also seeks to recruit and attract minority applicants to the University through its Outreach Office.

“Members of the Outreach team actively recruit underrepresented students, along with all members of the admission staff,” Roberts said. “The Outreach Office develops programming, reviews applications and serves as a key point of contact for minority and low income students and families interested in U.Va.”

But other University officials have raised concerns about the status of diversity on Grounds. A forum last year examining the declining number of African American students held by the University and Community Action for Racial Equality examined the declining population of African American undergraduate students based on data from 2012-13.

Trends show the African American population at the University is declining — 204 African American high school students enrolled for the fall of 2013 out of a total class of 3,540, barely up from 189 for the fall of 2012 out of a total class of 3,410. The data shows a steep drop from the 343 African Americans who enrolled for the fall of 1990 out of a total class of 2,568, according to data from University’s Institutional Assessment and Studies Office.

At that meeting last spring, panelist Valerie Gregory, an associate dean in the admissions office and the director of the Outreach Office, identified several factors contributing to the decline in the enrollment of African American students, including the recent economic recession, which has disproportionately affected African American families and made college unaffordable; competition from Ivy League colleges to recruit top minority students; and the way students self report race in University records.

In 2009, the category “Multi-Racial American” was added as a category to University records. If a student identifies as “African American” and “Asian American” they are recorded as “Multi-Racial American” — 157 enrolled students identified as multi-race for the fall of 2013.

The declining population of African American students is part of a larger discussion of the presence and experience of minority students on Grounds. The Court’s most recent decision applies directly to issues of state’s rights, but it acknowledges the role of admissions processes in shaping the experience of minority students when they arrive.


Published April 24, 2014 in News









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