Groups demand information on U’s policies

Amy Horst

The University should disclose its affirmative action policies if it is truly responsible to the community, said a letter sent to the University by three national groups in late March.

The National Association of Scholars, the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Center for Individual Rights sent the letter to public universities in 20 states asking how and why racial information is considered in admissions and what alternatives universities have sought in place of affirmative action.

At the University, where approximately 15 percent of students are members of a minority group, officials have asked for more information about the request in response to the letter.

“They’ve made a very extensive request, and that’s very hard for us to do,” University Deputy General Counsel William Donohue said.

“We have responded to it by indicating to them that we are going to gather the data, but first we are going to make an estimate of the cost,” Donohue said.

The University will pay some of the cost for gathering the information, but the three groups who made the request will also help pay if the University has to create the requested records, said Susan McKinney, University director of record and information management.

If any parts of the request require providing personal information about students – such as grades – the University will not turn over that information, Donohue said.

Officials from the National Association of Scholars said they sent the letter because of a Supreme Court decision in June upholding the constitutionality of affirmative action but placing a number of restrictions on how universities can carry out affirmative action admissions.

“We simply need to take a look at what the University of Minnesota has done to bring itself into alignment with the Supreme Court doctrine if it wasn’t in alignment prior to the decisions,” said Bradford Wilson, executive director of the National Association of Scholars. “We’re not accusing any university of any illegal activity.”

He said some universities have said they will comply, and others have written back asking the groups to specify their request.

The University of Michigan has refused to provide the information based on the state’s Freedom of Information Act, Wilson said.

If the University does not disclose its policies the group could take legal action, Wilson said, but he said he thinks the University will respond.

Wayne Sigler, University admissions director, said he believes the University’s admissions requirements are in line with the Supreme Court’s guidelines.

“We do use race as one factor in our admissions process, but it’s only one factor among many, and it’s never the controlling factor,” Sigler said.

In the admissions process, the University gives strongest consideration to academic factors such as standardized test scores and high school rank percentiles. Race is considered a secondary review factor, along with community involvement and work experience, he said.