Virginia Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, who is running for state attorney general, said yesterday state colleges should not base admissions decisions on race.
“We need to do everything we can under the law to move toward a color-blind society,” the Virginia Beach Republican told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “The time has now come, 40 years past the Civil Rights Act, that we ought to do everything we can at the K through 12 level to train all of our kids — black, white, brown, rich, poor — to get a good education so they are able to compete for entry into the colleges and not to have to guarantee slots.”
A delegate since 1992, Mr. McDonnell said quotas and racial preferences at colleges were needed after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to help transition society.
“I think that time has passed,” he said. “If we are really interested in a color-blind society, people ought to compete on their merits.”
Mr. McDonnell, 50, and Richmond lawyer Steve Baril will square offin the state’s June 14 primary. The winner is expected to face Sen. Robert Creigh Deeds, Charlottesville Democrat, in November.
Mr. Deeds is expected to be the only candidate seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for state attorney general.
The issue of racial preferences surfaced in Virginia in April 2002 when Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, told state colleges in a memo that they should not base admission solely on race or sex.
In March 2003, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors unanimously voted in a closed-door meeting to end affirmative action in its admissions process. However, that decision was reversed after pressure from students, alumni, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.
In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a split decision that upheld the University of Michigan law school’s policy of considering race.
The majority of the court decided the policy when applied to individual applicants can help achieve a “critical mass” of diversity. However, the court overturned the undergraduate admissions policy, which automatically awarded points to minority applicants.
Mr. Baril, who was not available for an interview yesterday, issued a statement addressing the racial preference issue.
“As the state’s highest legal officer, I’d make sure that the colleges and universities uphold the Constitution, as prescribed by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Mr. Baril said through his spokesman.
Mr. Deeds said Mr. Kilgore’s memo was “wrong.”
“I don’t believe in quotas, but I think it is right that we have a policy that encourages the admission of minorities in our institutions of higher learning to make up for 350 years of wrongs that were committed against African-Americans and minorities in general,” he said yesterday. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The Supreme Court’s decision did not address scholarships reserved for students of specific races.