Uni­ver­si­ties brace for ex­tra scru­tiny on use of race in ad­mis­sions.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLLIN BINKLEY

CAM­BRIDGE, MASS. | A Jus­tice Depart­ment in­quiry into how race in­flu­ences ad­mis­sions at Har­vard Univer­sity has left se­lec­tive col­leges brac­ing for new scru­tiny of prac­tices that have helped boost diver­sity lev­els to new highs across the Ivy League.

Har­vard and other top-tier col­leges closely guard the in­ner work­ings of their ad­mis­sions of­fices, but they de­fend ap­proaches that con­sider an ap­pli­cant’s race among other fac­tors as a way to bring a di­verse mix of per­spec­tives to cam­pus.

While the schools believe they are on firm legal ground, ex­perts say the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could in­spire new chal­lenges.

“They’re pulling the scab off a wound that was heal­ing,” said An­thony Carnevale, who has stud­ied af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams and leads Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion and the Work­force. “This could erupt in a bunch more cases.”

At the eight Ivy League col­leges in­clud­ing Har­vard, Yale and Prince­ton, the num­ber of U.S. mi­nor­ity stu­dents in all in­com­ing classes grew by 17 per­cent be­tween 2010 and 2015, while over­all en­roll­ment in those classes grew by less than 2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fed­eral data.

By 2015 mi­nori­ties ac­counted for more than 43 per­cent of all in­com­ing stu­dents in the Ivy League, up from 37 per­cent in 2010.

The trend partly re­flects the de­mo­graph­ics of an in­creas­ingly di­verse na­tion, but the schools also con­sider race for rea­sons in­clud­ing a de­sire to re­verse his­tor­i­cally low num­bers of mi­nori­ties at elite uni­ver­si­ties that in some cases be­gan ad­mit­ting non­white stu­dents only in the last 75 years.

“We’re aim­ing for diver­sity on our cam­pus, and we’re achiev­ing it,” said Christo­pher Eis­gru­ber, pres­i­dent of Prince­ton Univer­sity. “Uni­ver­si­ties have a com­pelling in­ter­est in pur­su­ing diver­sity in their stu­dent bod­ies through a holis­tic as­sess­ment of fac­tors.”

Mr. Eis­gru­ber said he is not sur­prised by the “con­tin­u­ing po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy,” but it would not be ap­pro­pri­ate for him to com­ment on the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

At Brown Univer­sity the in­quiry was a topic of dis­cus­sion last week, school spokesman Brian Clark said.

“The courts have held that col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties may act af­fir­ma­tively to achieve the ed­u­ca­tional goals at the core of our aca­demic ex­cel­lence at Brown,” Mr. Clark said in a state­ment. “Through our race-con­scious ad­mis­sion prac­tices, Brown as­sem­bles the di­verse range of per­spec­tives and ex­pe­ri­ences es­sen­tial for a learn­ing and re­search com­mu­nity that pre­pares stu­dents to thrive in a com­plex and chang­ing world.”

Word of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion star­tled some who thought the af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion de­bate was set­tled after the U.S. Supreme Court last year up­held race-con­scious ad­mis­sions at the Univer­sity of Texas. That case was brought by a white stu­dent who con­tended she was re­jected from the school while black stu­dents with lower grades were ad­mit­ted.

In the Har­vard case in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into a 2015 com­plaint brought by a coali­tion of 64 Asian-Amer­i­can groups that al­leges the school uses racial quo­tas to ad­mit stu­dents and dis­crim­i­nates against Asian-Amer­i­cans by hold­ing them to a higher stan­dard. The Jus­tice Depart­ment said it’s re­vis­it­ing the case be­cause it was left un­re­solved by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Har­vard said its prac­tices are legally sound.

“Har­vard re­mains com­mit­ted to en­rolling di­verse classes of stu­dents,” Har­vard spokes­woman Rachael Dane said. “Har­vard’s ad­mis­sions process con­sid­ers each ap­pli­cant as a whole per­son, and we re­view many fac­tors, con­sis­tent with the legal stan­dards es­tab­lished by the U.S. Supreme Court.”


A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Har­vard Univer­sity in Mas­sachus­setts says that the col­leage’s ad­mis­sions board looks at the “whole per­son” rather than the skin color of ap­pli­cants.

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