- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas Clad in Longhorn orange, University of Texas students of all ethnicities walk to their classes down San Jacinto Boulevard, up to Guadalupe Street, back to 21st Street.
Black, brown, yellow, white.
The racial composition of the 52,000 students here at UT remains diverse seven years after an appellate court ruled that the school could no longer use race as a factor for admission.
Since being forced to scrap its affirmative action program in 1996, the University of Texas has seen minority numbers gradually increase, then exceed the pre-ruling figures.
Last month, President Bush endorsed Texas, particularly UT, as a model of how to achieve diversity without affirmative action when he announced he would side with plaintiffs in opposing race-conscious admissions in a Supreme Court case involving the University of Michigan. Minority undergraduate applicants at the University of Michigan are given 20 points on a 150-point scale. That carries more heft than having perfect SAT scores, which would give a student 12 points.
At UT, undergraduates are admitted by what is called the top-10-percent plan, under which the top 10 percent of students from every Texas high school are accepted at any public college or university in the state.
Craig Moore, who is black, didn't need any special help getting into UT's esteemed law school, which is also prohibited from using race in admissions. He was already a shoo-in at most schools with his academic performance in undergraduate studies at Austin College in North Texas.
"Based on my performance and my credentials, there was no way they could refuse me," says Mr. Moore, who supports race-conscious admissions. "And I sure didn't want them to let me in because I'm black."
The University of Michigan says its admissions process considers race among a host of factors as part of an effort to ensure all students the benefits of learning in an ethnically diverse environment.
It is the same refrain uttered by hundreds of other public and private colleges and universities.
Many students share the views of students such as Mr. Moore, most of them similarly high achievers who revere racial diversity.
There are exceptions. "I think the most qualified person should always be admitted, regardless of what color they are," says Sonya Hughes, an 18-year-old freshman from San Antonio who is black.
And then there are the poster children for the Bush administration's contention that schools are allowing students in because of the color of their skin.
His freshman year at Vanderbilt University, Donato Ramos was on academic probation because of low test scores and low grades in high school.
"I got in there because, yeah, I was a Mexican-American from Texas," says Mr. Donato, who grew up in Laredo. "My ethnicity played a role."
At the UT law school, he noted, his race was again part of the process.
Mr. Ramos, 24, is part of a contingent of Hispanic law school students who make recruiting trips, paid for by UT, to colleges around the state, encouraging minority undergraduates to apply.
"We redoubled our efforts to recruit minorities," says Bill Powers Jr., dean of the law school. The law school had to remove race as a factor for admissions under the same court ruling.
In 1997, the first year the ruling took effect, 35 black students were accepted to the law school. Seven attended, which was a disappointment to the school.
UT countered what it considered obstacles to its undergraduate admissions ideal by developing a scholarship program exclusively for those top 10 percenters at high schools in poor areas and a recruitment effort targeting urban students.
"If the Supreme Court rules against UM, everybody will be extremely interested in us," says UT President Larry Faulkner, who took office in 1998, a year after the court decision against UT.
Despite his support of diversity, Mr. Faulkner says, "In general, I'm a believer that the more service you can provide effectively in this country without recognition of race, the healthier our society is." With those words, he is a pragmatic rebel.
The 10 percent plan accounts for half of freshman admissions at UT's Austin campus.
Last fall's black undergraduate enrollment of 272 eclipsed even those from the race-conscious admissions days. Overall this school year, first-time freshmen enrollment for blacks, Hispanics and Asians increased to a level above the 1996 pre-top-10-percent-plan days.
At the graduate level, there is greater representation in 2002 of both Hispanic students and Asians than in 1996, while both white and black enrollment has dropped.
"It is not our choice, the plan," Mr. Faulkner says. "Now, if the Supreme Court decides in favor of UM, it might be a choice."


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