Colleges Worry That Court Could Make Diversity Harder to Maintain

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, February 23, 2012

The news that the Supreme Court is revisiting the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions, just nine years after upholding it in a University of Michigan case, has admissions officials worried about maintaining diversity and confounded that the question is being reconsidered so soon.

“Nine years, when you’re talking about a decision of this magnitude, it really took me aback,” said Tom Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College. “What happens with the next president, the next Supreme Court appointee? Do we revisit it again, so that higher education is zigging and zagging? If the court says that any consideration of race whatsoever is prohibited, then we’re in a real pickle. Bright kids have no interest in homogeneity. They find it creepy.”

While a handful of states have laws banning affirmative action, most colleges and universities seeking a diverse student body do consider race in admissions, said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education.

“You can’t give extra points or say you’re looking for three more black students,” she said. “That would be dangerous. But reviewing the entirety of an application, colleges and universities that use holistic admissions talk about, ‘Here’s this person, from this part of the country, who went to this kind of high school, is of this ethnicity and would bring these qualities.’ ”

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