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CEO study decries University's use of race as admissions factor

The Center for Equal Opportunity has released a study that alleges a black student is 111 times more likely to gain admission to the University than a white student with similar test scores and class rank.

The study was released last month, nearly a year after a similar study was conducted by the same Washington-based think tank. The previous study found that a black student was 45 times more likely to be admitted to the University than a white student with similar academic credentials.

The study used admissions data from the entering classes of 1996 to 1999, obtained from the Office of Admissions.

CEO General Counsel Roger Clegg said people need to be aware of the University's admissions policies.

"I would think that the public is owed a response by the University, particularly for the citizens whose flagship university is continuing to discriminate" based on race and ethnicity, Clegg said.

The University's admissions policy "cries out for an explanation," he said.

The use of race as a factor in admissions became a hot topic of debate in the University community throughout last year after groups like the CEO claimed the University's policies were unfair and unconstitutional.

The dialogue finally culminated with a Board of Visitors October resolution supporting current admissions policies.

Still, at University President John T. Casteen III's request, the Office of Admissions altered its reviewing process slightly by dropping a numerical rating system.

But Clegg said that is not necessarily a wise decision.

"If they have replaced that with a more heavily disguised and more subjective system [that gives preferences to black students] that is not a good thing," he said.

Dean of Admissions John A. Blackburn said that he has not received a copy of the CEO's latest report and the Board's resolution affirmed the University's current system.

This is the first year the Office of Admissions has omitted the numerical ratings system and the new process is working well for now, Blackburn said.

"We'll have to take a good hard look at it after we've finished," he said.

The University does not need to change its admissions policies and should continue to use race as an admissions factor, Office of African-American Affairs Dean M. Rick Turner said.

"I'm not concerned by that right-wing group," Turner said, referring to the CEO. "We have proven our success over and over again with an 87 percent graduation rate" for black students.

But the CEO does not plan to stop studying the issue and will publish a similar study about the University's admissions policies every year indefinitely.

In addition, the CEO is trying to obtain access to the minutes and records of all meetings and discussions concerning the use of racial and ethnic preferences in admissions held by University officials.

Clegg said the CEO has not decided whether to examine other Virginia schools' admissions policies.