Life after Hopwood
Rodriguez, Roberto, Black Issues in Higher Education
El Paso, TX -- Hopwood -- the case that has thrown
affirmative action programs into a tailspin -- may be a
"blessing in disguise," according to University of Texas at
El Paso president Diana Natalicio.
That is because it has triggered what she calls a long-overdue
review of the use of standardized testing in
In Hopwood v. State of Texas, the 5th U.S. Circuit
Court ruled that race could not be used as
a factor in deciding whether to admit a
student. Hopwood concerned four white
students who had been denied access to
the University of Texas law school
despite the fact that their "Texas index"
scores -- a combination of standardized
test scores and grade point averages -- were
a few points higher than Mexican-American
students who had been
admitted. Currently, 28 percent of UT's
48,000 students are minorities..
Last month the Supreme Court said it
would not review the circuit court's
ruling. In an explanation of its decision,
Supreme Court justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg said that the admissions process at the
law school was a moot point since it had been changed
before the court case was brought.
However, that leaves Hopwood as the binding case
law in the states that make up the 5th circuit -- Texas,
Mississippi and Louisiana. Other states have already
begun to bring their affirmative action policies into line
as well, even though the ruling does not officially affect them.
Speaking in El Paso before a joint meeting of the UT
System Alliance for Minority Participation Academic
Leadership Council and Evaluation Task Force, Natalicio
said that Hopwood forces universities to reexamine their
reliance on standardized tests.
"I've had serious concerns about our [the academic
world] blind acceptance of standardized tests," she
For the fall of 1997, UT
has altered its
standardized tests. It will no
longer automatically admit
students based on their
UT Austin Vice
Provost, Ricardo Romo, said
that in the past, "too much
emphasis has been placed on
"In the past, if you received a score of 11250 [on the
SAT] or above, you were automatically admitted. Now,
you can have a [perfect] score of 1600 and it doesn't
automatically get you in."
Romo said that deemphasizing scores is justified
because "creating an index sends the wrong message."
In discussions among UT administrators, "there are
not a lot of defenders of test scores," he said. Evidence
clearly shows that the best indicator for success at a
university is class rank and grades in core curriculum
classes. "That's the best predictor. Not tests. "
In discussing how other schools nationwide have
already abolished standardized tests as admissions
criteria, Romo said that most of them are smaller colleges
and universities. UT receives 20,000 applications per
year and test scores have served as "another
benchmark," He agrees that in the past, they in fact have
been used as gatekeepers by some colleges and
Higher education is highly competitive and a
decision like Hopwood hurts UT, said Romo. …