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UC-Berkeley Struggles With Race, Admissions Policy

UC-Berkeley Struggles With Race, Admissions Policy

But the protest move, which is being taken by the University of California-Berkeley students who hope to incite the administration to reconsider its admissions policy, is just one piece of a larger puzzle surrounding race-based admissions policies across the country.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that colleges cannot use race as a deciding factor in admitting students, federal judges ruled last December in cases against the University of Michigan and the University of Washington law school that university officials can legally consider an applicant's race in determining admission.

But last week a district court judge ruled that admissions policies at the University of Michigan law school were unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race.

Officials at many universities, including UNC, said they do not focus solely on an applicant's race.

Herb Davis, UNC associate director of undergraduate admissions, said UNC officials consider many factors besides race including socioeconomic status. "We like to think our whole process is affirmative action because we're looking at all types of people."

But students nationwide say more is needed to ensure campus diversity.

Monique Limon, recruitment director for the RAZA Recruitment and Retention Center at the UC-Berkeley, said university officials could further promote diversity on campuses by repealing SP-1 -- a policy passed in 1995 that prevents schools from using racial, gender and economic factors in admitting students.

Limon, a Berkeley senior and member of the last class to be admitted under the old affirmative action policy, said she has noticed a significant difference in the racial makeup of the student population since she arrived at Berkley.

She said while Latino students represented 14 percent of the student body when she first enrolled, that figure now represents the total percentage of minority students on the Berkeley campus.

Limon said she believes the decline in diversity has lessened the open exchange of differing opinions. "I think (the current policy) brings one thought, one type of student," Limon said. "A more diversified campus opens up that dialogue."

She said RAZA will continue to recruit students to Berkeley but has withdrawn from campuswide recruitment efforts until the admission policies are revised.

Limon said she believes the lack of diversity on the campus has hurt the reputation of the school. "Berkeley has been renowned for its diversity and its open-mindedness, and unfortunately at this time that is not true."

But Richard Black, Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, said he believes the school's student population is diverse, citing students representing every ethnic community in California.

Black said Berkeley admissions officials consider a variety of factors when deciding a student's admittance. "Our process is not one that relies heavily on academics but one that relies on how those grades were earned and other factors that might have affected student (performance)."

Black said he does not repealing SP-1 will affect university admissions because the officials would still be required to follow Proposition 209.

Proposition 209 is a measure passed by California voters in 1997 preventing discrimination and preferential treatment in public employment and education practices based on race, gender and national origin.

Diane Hampton, legislative analyst at the American Council on Education, a higher education think tank, said the use of affirmative action in college admissions continues to spark debate among Americans though race is one of many factors officials consider in admissions.

Hampton said several states -- Texas, California and Florida -- have implemented new methods, such as automatically admitting students from the top percentile of all their schools, to ensure diversity in their public universities.

But Hampton said she believes the battle over affirmative action and its use in college admissions will continue in the near future. "I don't think we've won the battle by any means."

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