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Board unanimously supports considering race in admissions

After spending several hours in closed session Saturday, the Board of Visitors unanimously passed a resolution stating that it supports the University's current use of race in admissions and is willing to defend the policy in court.

The resolution also refuted the claim that minority students are admitted with lower standards, stating that "every student admitted under our policies is qualified to attend."

The resolution endorsed University President John T. Casteen III's decision to eliminate a point system in the University's admissions process while reinforcing the University's commitment to "recruiting and enrolling students of diverse talents and backgrounds."

The vote came after weeks of controversy and protest over the University's use of race in admissions.

"The Board feels Mr. Casteen has revised the [admissions] procedures in such a way that we are in compliance with the law," University Rector John P. Ackerly III said yesterday.

The Board also approved a plan to implement drug and alcohol testing for over 3,500 full-time and 500 wage employees who are in "high-risk" positions. The jobs covered include physicians, nurses, and positions involved with law enforcement, maintenance of hazardous facilities, boilers, explosives, elevators, and having access to controlled substances.

"Most of the positions covered in this policy will be in the Health System," said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The testing would be conducted before job placement and then after hiring if there is a good reason to suspect impairment.

The Board also received a report from the Finance Committee detailing the successful investment of the University's endowment. The investment performance has come under fire in the past because of poor performance despite a strong stock market.

But the report showed a much better performance by the endowment's investment managers: The pooled endowment value hit a peak of over $1.25 billion on June 30, and has realized a 14.1 percent increase during the calendar year through Sept. 30. During the quarter ending June 30, the University's endowment fund ranked third out of 30 peer universities' endowment funds.

Board members cautioned reading too much into the success, however, saying the University's planners were aiming for long-term success, not short-term gains.

"I don't think we ought to break our arms patting each other on the back," Board member William H. Goodwin, Jr said.

Board members also unanimously approved the Integrated Systems Project, which will replace the core of the University's computing systems.

"We have some needs that we aren't meeting with our current system," Sandridge said.

The project will upgrade the University's financial, human resources/payroll, and student information systems, some of which date as far back as 1976. The Board decided to approve the project in three separate phases, but plans to approve the next two phases at future meetings.

If all three phases are completed, the project will cost a total of $58.2 million, but will net $40.6 million in tangible cost savings. However, the project is intended to improve customer service and give the University a greater ability to adapt to growth and change. The project will start next year, and should be completed by the end of 2004.

(Cavalier Daily Associate Editor Rakesh Gopalan contributed to this article.)