Life after Hopwood

By Rodriguez, Roberto | Black Issues in Higher Education, August 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

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

college admissions.

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

said afterwards.

For the fall of 1997, UT

has altered its

policies regarding

standardized tests. It will no

longer automatically admit

students based on their

scores.

UT Austin Vice

Provost, Ricardo Romo, said

that in the past, "too much

emphasis has been placed on

standardized scores."

"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

universities nationwide.

Higher education is highly competitive and a

decision like Hopwood hurts UT, said Romo. …

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