- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech's governing board, on the advice of the state attorney general, has barred the consideration of race or sex during the admissions, hiring and financial-aid processes.
The decision apparently makes Virginia Tech the state's first public university to drop consideration of race and sex in its admissions policies.
The Board of Visitors unanimously approved a resolution stating that the university "shall not discriminate against, grant preferences in favor of, or otherwise weigh or consider an applicant's disability, age, veteran status, political affiliation, race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religious belief or gender at any point in the admissions or hiring process" or financial-aid process.
Board members approved the resolution without discussion Monday minutes after emerging from a closed-door session. It was not included on the agenda published before the meeting.
The resolution, which was not distributed to nonvoting board members or to the public at the meeting, apparently caught school administrators by surprise. University officials said they could not predict how the resolution would affect admissions or hiring policies.
"I do not have a backdrop to the board's actions, so for now, the language is going to have to speak for itself," said Tech spokesman Larry Hincker.
Board members said the policy reflects advice given by Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore.
"We're following the attorney general's advice," said William Latham, a board member from Haymarket.
"It pretty much speaks for itself," said board member Don Johnson. "What it says is we're attempting to be in compliance with current law."
Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said yesterday that the board's action was "certainly in line with the advice the attorney general gave the colleges and universities a year ago."
Mr. Kilgore is "supportive of what they've done. He firmly believes people should be treated fairly and equally," Mr. Murtaugh said.
In April 2002, Mr. Kilgore's office sent a memorandum to the presidents of Virginia's public colleges and universities warning them against admitting students or awarding scholarships based mainly on the student's race.
The 22-page memo, written by State Solicitor William H. Hurd, said court decisions and agreements between Virginia and federal authorities mean the state can no longer allow affirmative-action programs meant only to remedy past discrimination. Programs intended to promote diversity can continue, Mr. Hurd noted, but such programs must be "narrowly tailored" to achieve specific results.
"If a program is clearly not narrowly tailored, then it should be modified or discontinued as a matter of constitutional obligation," Mr. Hurd wrote.
However he warned, even if college officials believe the program would pass that legal test, they "should assess how much risk and expense they are willing to accept in the event such program is challenged in court."
Virginia Tech, the state's largest public university with 25,800 students, has long struggled to recruit minority students and faculty.
About 5 percent of the student body and about 3 percent of the tenured or tenure-track faculty are black, compared with roughly 20 percent of the state population. About 20 percent of the university's tenured or tenure-track faculty are women, according to a 2000 report.
In a related matter, tuition for in-state Tech undergraduates will jump 9 percent next school year, marking the third time in less than a year that the university has increased tuition in response to state budget cuts.
The Board of Visitors on Monday raised tuition and mandatory fees by $359 for in-state undergraduates. Graduate students from Virginia will pay an additional $513 in tuition and fees next year, while out-of-state undergraduates will pay an additional $677 in tuition and fees. Out-of-state graduate students will pay $997 more.
The increase means that tuition for Tech's in-state undergraduates has increased from $2,792 to $4,190 in two years. Fees and housing costs have risen much less dramatically. Tech officials increased room and board costs by just $14 for next year, or less than half of 1 percent.
Total cost for an undergraduate from Virginia to attend classes full time and live on campus next year will be $9,179. Out-of-state undergraduates, meanwhile, will pay $19,113 in tuition, room and board.
Tech has about 28,500 students on its Blacksburg campus.

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