- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

DETROIT It is explicit and to the point: To be admitted to the Michigan State University-Detroit College of Law, race is a big part of the application.
The school's admissions Web site reads, "The Law College will consider the following variables in addition to the applicant's undergraduate grade point average and LSAT score minority group status: African American, Hispanic, American Indian, or any other group significantly under-represented in the legal profession and in the student body."
The racially conscious admissions policy of the school and thousands of other colleges and universities could be retooled, and possibly eliminated, when the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of racial preferences in the University of Michigan's undergraduate and law school admissions systems.
Race and diversity are addressed by virtually every public college and university in the nation when it comes to admissions.
Typically, the schools cite the necessity of a racially mixed student body.
"We look at a broad range of factors that we feel will make a person successful," says Terence Blackburn, dean of the 813-student law college at Michigan State University. "I believe that it is vitally important to both the school and the students, and society at large that the law college accept and graduate a diverse population that represents the same characteristics that exist in the population."
President Bush and other critics of Michigan's admissions policy say the practice is akin to quotas, which were outlawed by the Supreme Court 25 years ago.
Colleges and universities post admissions variables, with race at the top of the list, on their Web sites and on applications, asking applicants to choose their ethnic background from the seven typically listed.
The University of Oregon has seven offices relating to diversity for a student body of 15,000 that is 8 percent to 10 percent minority.
Applicants to the school can choose from a list of eight ethnicities on the admission form.
Montana State University's undergraduate application states that "The U.S. Department of Education, office for Civil Rights, requires the institution to report aggregate data about the ethnic background of students."
At Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, "Race is definitely one of the factors we use here," said Linda Sims, assistant dean of admissions.
Universities and colleges have an almost uniform policy on race-based admissions.
"The most recent Supreme Court case on the use of race as a factor in higher education admission does authorize this," said Carl Monk, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools. "It is true that a significant number of law schools do that. It is used because the great bulk of law schools subscribe to the belief that racial diversity is a factor in every student's education."
Schools that use race as a factor say it helps create a diverse student population. Critics say race is not the only criterion that can diversify a student body.
"When they used the term 'diversity,' they really meant race," Barbara Grutter told the Chicago Tribune this week.
Miss Grutter filed a law suit against the University of Michigan, charging that she was denied admission to its school of law in 1997 because of her race, despite academic and personal accomplishments that outstripped her competition.
Her case is one of the two college-admissions cases both involving that university before the Supreme Court.
"These schools, across the board, are committed to this practice," said Carl Cohen, a Michigan professor and the man who brought the policies at his school to light five years ago. "They know that they may have to change their pattern, but they will continue to hold that pattern until they are told they can't. There is no use in them hiding this process now. And if the case is upheld, they can proceed."
Mr. Cohen, the former head of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the schools that use race among the determinants of admission are "morally wrong but doing it with the best of intentions."
"While most universities and schools continue to use race as a factor, there are other schools right now that can't," he noted. "Look at how things have turned out in California."
In 1996 voters decided race should not be used as an admissions factor in any public learning institution in that state.
The applications for schools there do not ask for a person's ethnic background.
"The first year after Proposition 209 took effect, we had only one African American admitted to the law school," said Marie Felde, director of media relations at the University of California, Berkeley. "But we are almost back to where we were before."


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