Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Coalition Challenges Virginia Tech Ban on Affirmative Action. (Noteworthy News)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Coalition Challenges Virginia Tech Ban on Affirmative Action. (Noteworthy News)

Article excerpt

BLACKSBURG, VA.

Black alumni of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) were joined by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and others last month in expressing disapproval of the university's board of visitors decision to bar the consideration of race and gender in the campus admissions, hiring and financial aid processes.

"The Black alumni are outraged that on the eve of the 50th anniversary celebration of the first Black student at Virginia Tech, the board of visitors passed a resolution intending to take Virginia Tech back to the antiquated policies, practices and thinking of the past," alumni said in a prepared statement.

Brian Roberts, a lawyer and spokesman for the Virginia Tech Black Alumni Network (VTBAN), says the March 10 decision by the board of visitors to adopt a race-neutral admissions policy was motivated by politics.

"If the board were really concerned with eliminating preferences, then they would have included the most glaring preferences based on legacy, athletic ability and the ability of parents to contribute financially to the university," Roberts says.

The alumni group went on to demand that the board "rescind their resolutions to discontinue programs that promote and support diversity."

Basil Gooden, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter that includes Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, called on the university to "justify all the factors considered in the admissions process, including legacies, geography, donations from parents and extracurricular activities."

In addition to barring the consideration of race in campus decisions, the board also removed from the university's anti-discrimination clause any reference to discrimination based on sexual orientation. On the same day, the board passed another resolution requiring that student groups get the president's approval if they wish to invite or sponsor speakers who can be construed as supporting or taking part in "domestic violence or terrorism." The Black alumni characterized that decision as a violation of students' constitutional right to free speech.

Board members are reported to have approved the two resolutions in a closed-door meeting without discussion minutes and without public discussion or advance notice, a move that particularly disturbed Gov. Warner.

"I am concerned that the Virginia Tech board opted to make such a fundamental change in university admissions and employment policies without advance public notice or, in my view, adequate public discussion," he said. …

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