Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Georgia Reaffirms Affirmative Action

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Georgia Reaffirms Affirmative Action

Article excerpt

President Tells Campus That University Will `Do the Right Thing'

ATHENS, Ga. -- University of Georgia officials announced late last month that they will continue to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions for a portion of the freshman class of 2000.

The pronouncement here came even as the university said it would abandon its consideration of gender, a policy instituted several years ago to stem the declining presence of male students at the university.

Dr. Michael F. Adams, the university's president, delivered the statement defending the Georgia's affirmative action policy Sept. 30 at the first fall meeting of the university council. His words sent a strong message to other public institutions that are revisiting their admissions policies.

"Those who argue that the only fair method is a statistical ranking of applicants' academic records miss an important point," Adams said. "True fairness also includes a professional assessment of unique family situations, the schools the student has attended, the community he or she came from and whether applicants had to overcome economic hardships to build a record of academic achievement. These things are not nearly so quantifiable as a GPA and an SAT score, yet they are important indicators of that applicant's chances for success."

The decision follows in-depth discussions with key senior administrators, faculty and alumni -- along with educational and political leaders -- both within Georgia and outside the state.

Adams said that 80 to 90 percent of next freshmen class will be admitted solely on the basis of academic criteria -- such as high school grade-point average and standardized test scores. However, the university will continue to use additional factors in making admissions decisions for the rest of the class.

The university also will extend admission to one valedictorian and one salutatorian from each Georgian high school fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In response to Adams' announcement, State Attorney General Thurbert Baker said the University has a slim chance of winning a court fight over its race-sensitive admissions policy. "The university's case will be difficult, given the current legal trend regarding these matters," he said.

Still, Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes pledged his support for the university's position.

"President Adams' admissions policies have my wholehearted support," Barnes said. "If students are going to succeed in an international economy, they need a learning environment that is geographically, racially and culturally diverse."

Recently, civil rights activists have criticized colleges and universities for their tepid responses to voter initiatives and court challenges of affirmative action policies. Georgia now joins the University of Michigan as being among the institutions that say they will mount a vigorous defense of their policies.

Late last month, the University of Virginia's board of governors recommended discontinuing the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions.

"I say, `Rah, rah Georgia,'" responded Eva Paterson, an attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Equal Rights in San Francisco. Her firm is representing a group of Black and Latino students in a lawsuit against the University of California. …

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