U works to certify admissions

Molly Moker

In light of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action, the University is working to ensure its admission policies comply with constitutional standards.

The Office of the General Counsel is certifying the policies of the University’s 17 admissions programs. The inspections began in March and are set to finish by October.

University Deputy General Counsel William Donohue said so far all programs have been in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings and only modest changes are being made to University admissions policies.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled race could be used in the admissions process, but only to an extent. Race cannot be a deciding factor, but can be used as an additional plus.

“We think we are in compliance with the decision,” Donohue said.

The University of Michigan and the institution’s law school sparked the lawsuit. The court found the law school was in compliance with affirmative action standards, but the institution’s undergraduate admissions were not.

The university issued points to students if they were minorities, thus giving some students greater advantages solely because of their personal characteristics.

Donohue said the University of Minnesota never used a point system. Rather, he said each candidate is reviewed holistically.

Wayne Sigler, director of undergraduate admissions, said there have not been problems with his office, which is awaiting certification.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is the largest admissions program in the University system.

“I am 100 percent certain this will just be a routine finding of what we’re doing,” Sigler said.

Two changes will be made to the undergraduate admissions process since the Supreme Court ruling, Sigler said.

Transfer students will be reviewed holistically, instead of mostly off their grade point average from their previous college.

Also, incoming first-year students that were in the very top end of their class academically will be reviewed holistically as well. Previously, high-ranking students were admitted solely on their scholastic achievement.

These changes are set to take effect in the fall.

The changes have affected the workload for the office, Sigler said. He said the 27 staff members now take more time to review each application, sometimes leading to overtime and weekend hours. He also said six seasonal readers were hired to help shoulder the load.

The result of such thorough review is a successful incoming class, Sigler said.

“This class is even stronger (than last year’s) because of the increased attention to academic rigor,” he said.

The University does consider race, among other personal characteristics, in the admissions process to ensure diversity on campus, Sigler said

“It is only one among many factors, and it’s never the controlling factor,” he said. “We never sacrifice academic criteria to meet enrollment goals.”

Although the University does not have diversity quotas, cultural, ethnic and gender differences enrich the University experience, Sigler said.

“Our only objective in a sense is we seek to enroll an academically capable, diverse student body that will enrich the academic experience,” he said.

Donohue said the University is certifying the admission policies as a precautionary measure, and he does not expect to find any programs not in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“Our program will be able to withstand any challenge brought against us,” Donohue said. “(The certification) is very thorough and well done.”

Sigler said he thinks most universities are looking at their admission policies, but does not know if all institutions are taking as formal an approach as the University of Minnesota.

“Mechanisms from school to school vary,” Sigler said. “We’ll be a model for the rest of the country, and I think every school will end up doing this.”