The University Record, October 22, 1997

U to fight lawsuit challenging admissions practices

From the Office of University Relations

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The University of Michigan will defend itself against a lawsuit challenging its admissions policies and will mount a series of campus discussions regarding diversity in higher education.

"This will be a very difficult time for the University and it will be a test of our character as an institution as to how we deal with it," said President Lee C. Bollinger at last week's Regents' meeting.

"This will be a test of our ability to function as an educational community and to make sure that we make the point successfully that our policy of diversity is part of our long-standing historical identity. It is absolutely congruent with major ins titutional policies around this country."

Last week, the University was sued by the Center for Individual Rights on behalf of two white students not admitted to the University who claim that different standards are used to admit students of different races. The suit was filed in U.S. Distric t Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Oct. 14, and lists as defendants the University, President Lee C. Bollinger, President Emeritus James J. Duderstadt, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

In commenting on the lawsuit, President Bollinger said that "what is being attacked is a long-standing policy of the University of Michigan that is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and the identity of the University."

"The University will not only defend itself in the legal arena, but also will encourage discussions and communication on the value of a diverse environment. Bollinger said. "The provost and I have been talking about how to help with the campus discu ssion of these issues as we proceed over the next many months. We will be announcing to the community efforts to try to address these issues in various forms and forums. We are dealing with something that goes deep into our history.

"We have and must continue to make sure that this institution is open to all parts of American society and that the experience we offer our students who come here is one that is as rich and diverse as we can possibly make it."

A variety of factors determine a student's admissibility to the University.

"The University of Michigan has one system of admissions within which every applicant is evaluated, using the same criteria, " said Provost Nancy Cantor, to whom the Office of Admissions reports. "Academic achievement is essential, in combination wit h a range of other factors. Race is used as a plus factor in the admissions process, as are residency and legacy."

Cantor says that the admission process is linked to the University's core values of academic excellence and diverse participation. "We strive to admit a class of outstanding students from diverse walks of life, whose intelligence and rich and varied personal experiences will enliven our campus, from the classrooms to the dining halls to the concert stage and the playing fields. "

"A university achieves excellence in teaching and scholarship by benefiting from the varied intellectual perspectives and experiences of its participants," she notes. "Our stature is firmly tied to our long and distinguished history in recruiting a a diverse body of students, faculty and staff. This diversity enhances our ability to do our job--that is, to create the best education and educational environment we can."

The University has retained the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering to represent it in the case.


Variety of factors used in admissions decisions

The University uses a variety of factors in determine whether a student should be admitted:


High school grade point average, which is recalculated to emphasize courses considered important to preparation for a college education.


The rigor of the curriculum in the high school the student attended, especially the number of advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses that are offered, and the proportion of students from that school who go on to college.


The rigor of the courses actually taken by the student--how challenging or competitive they are--also is an important factor.


Standardized test scores, such as SAT and ACT.


Geography. Michigan residency, underrepresented counties in Michigan, underrepresented regions in the United States.


Alumni relationships (parent, sibling or grandparent).


Essay quality. In reviewing the essays, admissions counselors look for high-quality, articulate, original writing that is not simply a rehash of cliches. Also important is the content of the essay and what it reveals about the applicant that is not apparent in other admissions materials.


Personal achievement at the state, regional and national level.


Leadership and service activities at the state, regional and national level.


Whether the student is socioeconomically disadvantaged or comes from an educational environment that is socioeconomically disadvantaged.


Whether the student is a member of an underrepresented racial or ethnic community or comes from a school that serves those communities.


Athletic ability.


President's statement on lawsuit

The following statement was issued Oct. 14 by President Lee C. Bollinger in response to the lawsuit on the University's admissions practices filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Oct. 14.

"Since its founding, the University of Michigan has been committed to providing an education to the widest range of students. Throughout our history we have included students from diverse geographical, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"For almost 200 years, public universities have unlocked the doors to social and economic opportunity to students from many different backgrounds, and we believe it is absolutely essential that they continue to do so. Our mission and core expertise is to create the best educational environment we can. We do this in part through a diverse faculty and student body.

"Our admissions policies are linked to these core values, especially our chief value: academic excellence.

"We are supported in this judgment by virtually all of America's leading universities, and we believe that our admissions policies are fully consistent with existing legal principles.

"We use a variety of factors to determine a student's admissibility to the University. These include, among others:


High school grade point average.


The rigor of the curriculum during high school years, especially the number of advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses offered.


Standardized test scores such as SAT/ACT scores.


Geography (Michigan residency, underrepresented counties in Michigan; underrepresented regions in the United States).


Alumni relationships (parent; sibling or grandparent).


Essay quality.


Personal achievement (state, regional and national level).


Leadership and service (state, regional and national level).


Socioeconomically disadvantaged student or education.


Underrepresented racial or ethnic minority identity or education.


Athletic ability.

"Each of these factors can influence a student's admissibility because they are considered to be characteristics that contribute to the quality of the University and the diversity of the student body. No one factor is determinative; our approach util izes both objective and subjective factors, treating the admission of students as both an art and a science.

"The University has retained Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, a highly regarded international law firm, to represent it in this lawsuit."