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Admissions debate continues despite Board's resolution

Although the Board of Visitors passed a resolution Saturday supporting the University's current admissions policies, members of the University community remain divided about whether race should be considered in the admissions process.

Office of African-American Affairs Dean M. Rick Turner said he supports the Board's resolution, but the issue is far from over.

"There's still a lot of ignorance in regards to affirmative action -- the issue is not going away," Turner said.

Recent debate initially was sparked by a statement made in September by Board member Terence P. Ross, who said the University "is clearly in some cases reaching a bit down its academic standards" to recruit black students.

Turner said although Ross' statements were derogatory to the black community, they "might have been a blessing in disguise," because it helped force the University to discuss the use of race in admissions.

Karen E. Holt, director of the University's Equal Opportunity Programs Office, said although the resolution has many positive aspects, students who support the use of race in admissions should not back down yet.

The controversy is likely to continue as opponents of using race in admissions organize a series of events this week designed to highlight the negative aspects of race-based admissions. Three conservative student organizations are sponsoring the events, which they have dubbed "Equality Week."

"The goal is to get the other side out there and basically show that there are rational arguments to be made against race-based admissions," said Jason Bradfield, president of the Jefferson Leadership Foundation, one of the sponsors for "Equality Week." Any disparity in the qualifications of applicants to colleges and universities should be solved by improving K-12 education and not by using race in admissions, Bradfield said.

The University has made an effort in the past few weeks to move away from using race in admissions by dropping a scoring system that rates applicants numerically, but the Board's resolution still is "disappointing," said Roger Clegg, vice president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative interest group based in Washington, D.C.

"I don't understand why the University doesn't just say that we are not going to base admissions decisions on race or ethnicity, period," Clegg said. "If they are considering race [in admissions] at all they are violating the law."

Earlier this year the Center for Individual Rights filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Michigan's Board of Regents for their use of racial preferences in admissions. But the CIR declined to comment on whether they plan to file a similar lawsuit against the University.

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