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Updated 1:00 PM September 22, 2003



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Affirmative action forum
New policy gives 'holistic' view of applicants

The new undergraduate admissions process increases the information available to the University about applicants, provides for more faculty input and continues to work toward building a diverse student body, panelists said Sept. 17 during a forum about the Supreme Court's affirmative action rulings and their impact on campus.

Panelists Patricia Gurin, Marvin Krislov, Terrence McDonald and Theodore Spencer discuss the new undergraduate admissions policy and the recent Supreme Court rulings. (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

The process will provide a "holistic" portrait of applicants, said Theodore Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions.

The court upheld the Law School admissions process in its entirety, but disallowed the awarding of a specific number of points with regard to race in the undergraduate admissions process. Under the new process, applicants are asked for more information about their background, personal achievement and ways in which they may contribute to the diversity of the student body.

The LSA faculty appreciate the increased faculty input called for in the policy, said Terrence McDonald, dean of LSA. He also noted that it requires an additional essay response, "and, as you know, faculty always want more writing."

Faculty members—including a committee in LSA—will have continued input into the process, McDonald said. "I think that perspective is going to be very useful," he said.

The review of applications will start with a specially trained reader and then will go to a professional admissions counselor in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The counselor will not know the reader's evaluation. A senior-level manager in the office then will review the recommendations and make a final decision about whether to admit the applicant.

Some of the changes to the application process include areas where students can include SAT-II, AP and IB scores, as well as recommendation forms that teachers and counselors can use to discuss the applicant's strengths. Other questions elicit information about the educational background of the applicant's family members and the family's socioeconomic status.

The process continues to place an emphasis on diversity, panelists said. Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel, noted that the court made it clear diversity is a compelling interest. "The big question was settled," he said. "Our decisions were very, very clear about the fundamental value of diversity."

Patricia Gurin—the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women's Studies, and one of the founders of the Program on Intergroup Relations—noted that experience with diversity has many benefits for students, something that numerous studies have shown. It benefits students in many ways, such as increasing learning, increasing understanding of alternative viewpoints, reducing unconscious prejudice and preparing students to participate in society more fully after graduation, she said.

Michigan Student Assembly President Angela Galardi introduced the program. Lester Monts, senior vice provost and counselor to President Mary Sue Coleman, made welcoming remarks. Ed Willis, dean of students, introduced the panelists and posed questions to them. E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, made closing remarks. Mark Kamimura, a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, and Ernesto Mejia, program coordinator for Dialogues on Diversity, moderated a question-and-answer session.

Dialogues on Diversity, the Program on Intergroup Relations, and the University Unions Arts and Programs Offices, Division of Student Affairs, sponsored the event. To participate in a continuing discussion about affirmative action and diversity at U-M, visit and click on the Digital Dialogues tab at the top of the page.


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