Portales: Why Affirmative Action in Admissions

via email, Feb. 18, 2004

Texas A&M’s December 2003 Admissions Policy

Decision

For the sake of Texas A&M’s reputation among Latinos and blacks of Texas and

the nation, we hope that “Gains in minority enrollment will come through enhanced outreach, not

[through] changes in admissions policies, requirements and standards,” as the administration contended

in December, 2003.

But if more minorities do not enroll at Texas A&M in the next 2

years, we will have no choice but to consider race as a criterion, as the Supreme Court allowed on June

23, 2003 in Grutter. When Hopwood outlawed race as a factor in March 1996, Texas A&M was even then

enrolling a lamentably low number of freshmen minority students: 230 blacks out of 528 acceptances, 713

Latinos out of 1,432 acceptances, and 177 Asian Americans out of 510 acceptances. Since then we have

consistently failed to recoup even these numbers.

During the 7 years that Hopwood shaped

admissions policy, Aggie campus administrations repeatedly said that Texas A&M was “hamstrung” and

“hampered” from considering race. If only they could consider race, they would say by way of

deflecting criticism, we would have more minorities on campus.

But, since June 2003 the

Supreme Court’s Grutter decision at the University of Michigan has allowed colleges to consider race as

one of several factors. Texans and the nation had all been waiting to see if Texas A&M would consider

race as Rice and the University of Texas are doing.

This is not to say that we are

urging “race-based admissions,” as the media constantly claim and as many people believe. What we are

saying is that race ought to be taken into account–along with all of the other regularly considered

college merit admissions factors.

After all, Latinos and blacks who have earned high

grades, already have the test scores and can demonstrate a good number of the other merits that Texas

A&M looks for, thereby having proven themselves. In minority students, as in white students, such

merits are recognizable accomplishments that speak for themselves. Such applicants can rightfully

claim being special, to being exceptional applicants. That is why we say that race should be an added

diversity factor, one, among others, of the actual manifestations of what is variously known as

diversity.

In the wake of campus events caused by different attitudes toward race, no

one can be persuaded any longer that people are “color-blind” or “race neutral,” as some people want to

believe; and, apparently, neither is the Supreme Court convinced.

The $40,000 family

income cut-off qualifying a student for the new $5,000 a year Regents scholarships, we also need to

point out, is too low. We understand money is tight. And, yes, a student, of any race and background,

with a monthly family gross income of $3,333 who maintains high grades, takes the right courses and has

the needed test scores is a walking miracle and deserves financial support. But even a student with

two custodial parents at Texas A&M are likely earn more than the minimum $40,000 that is required for a

son or a daughter to earn such a scholarship.

During the question and answer session of

the December 3, 2003 meeting with President Gates, one student asked for financially more competitive

presidential and honors scholarships while another brought out that even families earning $100,000 a

year are now “struggling” to meet tuition, rent and other college expenses. If this is so, will

students with the Regents scholarships be able to put together financial packages that will allow them

to stay in school for 4 or 5 years until they graduate? Again, that would require another miracle.

For these reasons, it is difficult to believe that minority enrollment can be achieved

only by enhancing outreach efforts. We have unsuccessfully tried that approach since the early 1980s,

as former Professor Ruth Schaffer brought out month after month, year after year during the meetings of

the Minority Conditions Committee of the Faculty Senate.

Convincing accepted minority

students now to attend Texas A&M in the face of events that we continue to see and that have

traditionally kept minorities from enrolling here appears insurmountable. We are, nevertheless,

willing to be proven wrong. Hopwood has already hurt another wave of minority students and faculty

recruitment as well as campus diversity efforts for more than 7 long years. After 128 years, the next

2 years should tell us whether Texas A&M is capable of attracting more minority students without

including race as an admissions factor.

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