The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing on December 6th on the University of Michigan's raced-based admission policies involving separate actions against the undergraduate and law school programs. Controversy Over Race-Based Admissions Policies Continues

Lawsuits challenging the use of race-based admissions policies by state universities are continuing to move through the court system. While this issue may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, universities on the losing side of the battle are in the process of implementing admissions policies that eliminate the consideration of race as a factor.

As a result of a lawsuit over the University of Georgia’s (UGA) admissions policy, school officials are now in the process of implementing a policy that takes only academic factors into consideration.

The previous UGA admissions process utilized a system called the Total Student Index (or TSI) that was developed to increase the minority student population. The TSI allowed the university to admit up to one-fifth of its annual applicants with lower academic qualifications in order to increase diversity on campus. In essence, it gave a statistical advantage to minority students who had lower grade point averages and test scores.

The TSI system was challenged as being unconstitutional, and ultimately, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision overturning the admissions process, labeling it "arbitrary." On November 9, 2001, UGA announced that it would not appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and began considering the "academics only" policy.

Not everyone is happy with the new policy. Some critics argue that UGA’s plan to solely consider academic factors is akin to "throwing out the baby with the bathwater." For example, a university panel established to provide recommendations on improving school diversity has recently issued its recommendations that admissions criteria should be broadened and academic test scores should be downplayed.

That recommendation echoes the newly unveiled admissions policy of the University of California (UC). UC announced that it would begin considering more than just the academic records of its applicants. Admissions officials will begin implementing a policy of comprehensive review which bases acceptance on factors such as economic backgrounds and personal achievements.

Some critics charge that such admission policies are nothing more than a backdoor approach to getting around federal court decisions eliminating race-based admission policies or put another way, an end-run around the elimination of affirmative action.

It remains to be seen what type of admissions policy the University of Texas at Austin will choose to implement now that it has recently revealed that it would not continue to appeal the Hopwood case, decided by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, against its own race-based admissions policy.

Some experts believe that the stage is set for the US Supreme Court to ultimately take up this matter. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing on December 6th on the University of Michigan's raced-based admission policies involving separate actions against the undergraduate and law school programs. If that court chooses to uphold those policies, the ruling will conflict with the 11th Circuit's UGA decision and thereby result in a circuit split.


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December 7, 2001
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