Rulings won't alter area colleges' admissions policies
Matthew Daneman and Ben Rand
Democrat and Chronicle
(June 24, 2003) — Local college campuses don’t foresee changing how they do business in light of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding the role race can play in admissions.
And they doubt the decision would have affected them if it had gone the other way, either.
“It’s not going to impact us at all,” said Adrienne Collier, affirmative action officer at the State University College at Brockport. “In fact it’s pretty clear-cut. The criteria (we) use in admissions doesn’t take race into account.”
None of the area campuses has affirmative-action admissions programs similar to the University of Michigan.
There, being a member of an underrepresented minority group means a number of points on a scale, with students needing a specific number of points to get in.
And it was that approach that the Supreme Court struck down in its decision.
A number of area schools, however, give some weight to an applicant’s race if that person is close to some type of cutoff. And the justices, in a 5-to-4 decision, upheld using affirmative action in such decisions.
“The court appears to have upheld the principle of “narrowly tailored” affirmative action programs, such as those used in the admissions processes at the University of Rochester,” university spokesman Robert Kraus said in a statement.
Rochester Institute of Technology puts its focus on creating a wide pool of students who apply to the university, but is race-blind when selecting from the pool of eligible students, said President Albert Simone.
While RIT won’t be changing its admissions practices because of -- or to take advantage of -- the Supreme Court decision, Simone said he applauded the ruling. “When it comes to affirmative action, I see it as what’s best for America,” he said, pointing to the low numbers of nonwhites attending college, even as they make up an increasing percentage of the total population of the nation.
Some local businesses also applauded the decision.
“We believe it’s essential to our success to be able to hire individuals of all backgrounds who have been educated in a diverse environment, where they are exposed to diverse people, ideas, perspectives and interactions,” said Xerox Corp. spokeswoman Kara Choquette.
Xerox and Eastman Kodak Co., two of Monroe County’s largest employers, joined 63 other companies in urging the high court to ratify racial and ethnic diversity as a key criterion in university admissions.
The companies filed a “friend of the court” brief in February arguing that employees -- in order to be successful -- must know how to interact with diverse people, cultures and ideas.
Poll after poll has shown that Americans are strongly divided on affirmative action. And local college students are no different, especially when it comes to the matter of what role race should play in deciding who gets into school.
While nonwhite people often don’t have the financial and educational advantages that white people do, college admissions still should be based on educational merit, said Maryrose Mason, 23, of Batavia and a graduate student in RIT’s communications department.
“People are so much more complex than numbers and statistics,” she said. But, she added, “it’s a tricky question. I understand sometimes you went to an (underperforming) high school and that wasn’t your fault.”
RIT industrial design major Luz Zambrano, 21, said that while she backed the notion of having a more diverse campus, she also felt sympathy for white students who might lose out when diversity becomes an emphasis.
In her native Venezuela, she said, “everything is by your grades. Nobody cares where you’re from. I hope I was accepted because of my grades.”
But RIT international business and marketing student Denishea Flanigan, 20, of Cincinnati, said that since diversity is increasingly a corporate goal, it also should be a goal for colleges -- at least if those schools want their students to be marketable to employers.