The University of Massachusetts at Amherst announced Feb. 18 that it would shift away from using race preferences in its admissions policies. The university will instead consider socioeconomic status and extracurricular activities when deciding whether to admit students and award financial aid.
The decision came in the wake of a ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that said it was an unconstitutional for an elite public high school in Boston to use race preferences in admissions. In a 2-1 decision, the panel said that Boston Latin School had violated the rights of a white student when it rejected her and accepted some minority students with lower test scores and grades.
Educational institutions may still consider race as a "plus" factor when weighing student applications, the court said. The university called its decision a "sign of the times." Challenges to race-preferential policies in admissions have already been presented in California, Washington, Georgia, Michigan and Texas. Voters in California and Washington have passed propositions forbidding discrimination based on race by state governmental entities, which includes public universities in those states.
Those propositions brought those states further in compliance with the landmark 1978 Supreme Court decision Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In the Bakke decision, Justice Lewis F. Powell wrote that colleges and universities cannot use simple ethnic diversity to achieve diversity in admissions. Writing for the court, Powell said that "diversity must encompass a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which race or ethnic origin is but one."
"We don't like the fact that we will have a drop in a single population of students," said Joseph Marshall, assistant vice-chancellor for enrollment services at the University of Massachusetts system, as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education Feb. 22. "But we are trying to stay ahead of the curve in regards to the legal landscape. I think, ultimately, we will be able to respond much better to the ever-broadening definition of diversity."
The school plans to look at ways to increase minority enrollment without using race preferences and discrimination. These include deemphasizing test scores and increasing the amount of money available for scholarships.
UNC-Chapel Hill is more Y2K-ready than most
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is at a comparably high level of preparedness for the computer glitch known as the "Year 2000" (Y2K) problem, the campus's University Gazette is reporting.
UNC-Chapel Hill is a member of a consortium called "IVY+," a group of elite universities working together to solve the Y2K problem on campus. Other member institutions include Duke University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth University. Among IVY+ members, UNC-CH is ranked third - behind Harvard and MIT - in Y2K-readiness.
While the problem has not been solved at UNC-CH, the university's executive director of Administrative Information Services, Steve Jarrell, told the UNC-CH Board of Trustees Jan. 29 that the school's administrative systems had been tested and looked good.
Jarrell said the Y2K effort had cost AIS $1.3 million, $230,000 of which came from a state grant. The effort now centers on the campus' many personal computers, Jarrell said.