Universities Targeted by Conservative Ad Campaign

Universities Targeted by Conservative Ad Campaign – Brief Article

WASHINGTON — Conservative organizations that say top U.S. colleges are illegally using racial preferences in admissions are producing reports to support their claim and, in some cases, taking their case to the nation’s college newspapers.

As a result, a committee appointed by the University of Virginia’s (UVA) board of visitors plans to study whether the institution is violating the law by enforcing affirmative action in admissions.

The committee, established last month, will examine the university’s admissions policies and examine whether board members could be held personally liable in a lawsuit.

The decision to form the committee came three days after the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal group, threatened to seek damages from individual trustees of universities that give admission preference to minorities. The threats were implied in ads the CIR placed in 15 college newspapers across the nation.

The newspaper ads, headlined “Guilty by Admission,” charge that nearly every elite college in the United States violates the law.

But many educators say the law firm has misrepresented 20 years of court rulings and overstated colleges’ efforts to bring diversity to their campuses.

The center issued two 30-page handbooks it says are intended to help students identify discrimination and to help institutions keep from getting sued, but critics say the handbooks are designed to incite lawsuits.

“Colleges very clearly understand they may not use quotas,” says Norma Cantu, the assistant secretary for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, referring to programs that don’t consider a student’s merit. “There’s no need for a handbook.”

Additionally, the Washington-based Center for Equal Opportunity recently released data from a study showing that some of Virginia’s top public universities favor Black applicants over whites who scored higher on standardized tests.

The CEO studied SAT scores and high school grades for 1996 applicants to 10 public colleges and universities in the state. It found a Black high school student is 45 times more likely to be admitted to UVA than a White student with the same SAT scores.

“It’s understandable that the board of visitors … would be meeting in regards to this most volatile issue. But I also think we have a special and unfulfilled obligation to African American students,” says Dr. M. Rick Turner, the university’s dean of African American affairs.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Cox, Matthews & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group