Statement by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman
to U-M Board of Regents
On behalf of the University, I want to
talk for a few minutes about the admissions lawsuits and yesterday's
news that the White House will file a brief in opposition.
First, I was happy to hear the President
strongly support the importance of diversity in America's
colleges and universities.
He recognized that racial prejudice is a
reality in America.
Race still matters.
He said, and we know this to be true from
our research, that the values of respect, understanding and goodwill
are strengthened when students live and learn from people from many
And we agree wholeheartedly that universities
have a responsibility to seek out diversity and consider a broad
range of factors in admissions, including a student's potential
and life experiences.
In fact, we do just that in our admissions
policies. We consider the whole student. Our admissions policies
here at the University of Michigan look at a broad range of factors
and a student's entire background.
And let's set the record straight: We do
not have nor have we ever had quotas or numerical
targets in either the undergraduate or the law school admissions
system. By far the overwhelming consideration is academic qualification.
Here's important data to share about our
undergraduate selection index and its point system. 110 points out
of a possible 150 are given for academic factors including grades,
test scores and the strength of the high school curriculum. It is
true that a perfect SAT score yields just 12 points in that system.
That is because we feel the GPA is a much better indicator of a
student's potential and performance than standardized tests. A perfect
GPA yields 80 points on its own.
Every student we admit is qualified and
prepared to do the work.
We consider many other factors in addition
to academics, including race. Geographic diversity is important,
too; so if you come from Michigan's upper peninsula you earn 16
points. A student who is socioeconomically disadvantaged earns 20
points. We look at leadership, at service and extra-curricular activities,
at life experiences, among others. Overall, we strive for a student
body that is richly diverse in many ways because it enriches each
student's learning environment.
In making decisions at the Law School, we
also carefully review individual experiences and interests in a
highly competitive process. Every applicant competes fairly for
every seat. There are no numerical targets, and the actual enrollment
of underrepresented minorities at the Law School over the past 10
years has ranged from 12.5 to 20 percent. (Our enrollment of students
from California has ranged from 11 to 15 percent during that same
time; but I don't imagine anyone would think we had a numerical
target for Californians!)
Also, I want to talk a bit about the percentage
plans now in place in a couple of states. They are not a panacea,
and I firmly believe they would not work at all here at Michigan
and for most other highly selective universities across the country.
These programs have hardly been an unqualified.success. In fact,
yesterday I read an Associated Press story citing that minority
enrollment at the University of Texas flagship Austin campus is
still lower than it was before the court barred consideration of
race. And the most selective graduate schools seem to be particularly
For Michigan it would be especially problematic.
We are an individual institution, not part of a system, and we simply
wouldn't be able to guarantee admission to a certain percentage
of students from every high school in the State. We have over 25,000
applications for about 5,000 seats.
In Texas, this sort of plan might work to
some degree for undergraduate schools because it is a system and
because many K-12 schools in Texas are racially segregated. So,
admitting the top ten percent guarantees some number of minority
students. But if the nation's goal is to end segregation as identified
in Brown v. Board of Education, how can we be in the business of
relying on it for college diversity?
Also, the percent plans select high school
students solely on the basis of their high school grades
not on their leadership abilities, activities, teacher recommendations,
nothing. It is a one-dimensional approach that fails to see students
as whole people. It doesn't allow for an evaluation of their
full capabilities or their potential contributions.
Finally, I want to underscore just how critical
this Supreme Court review is not just for Michigan but for
all of higher education. Although critics of affirmative action
have painted Michigan's admissions processes as extreme over these
past few years, in fact ours is a moderate approach, carefully considered
under the guidelines of the 1978 Bakke decision. Our policies are
similar to most other selective colleges and universities across
the countrypublic and private.
Bakke said that universities could not use
quotas but could consider race as one of many factors in order to
achieve real diversity. And in fact, we conform to that decision.
The Sixth Circuit, in our law school case, said Michigan's
admissions policy is indistinguishable from the Harvard plan that
the court held up as the model to follow.
So the Supreme Court decision from our cases
has the potential to affect all of higher education in everything
from admissions policies to financial aid to mentoring and enrichment
programs. As the Justices review the Bakke decision, the Court will
determine whether or not colleges and universities can take any
consideration of race into account when recruiting and nurturing
its student body.
I believe Bakke is good law. It has formed
the basis for governmental guidelines that higher education has
relied on over these years. It has been implemented fairly and effectively
since 1978; and it has worked to create real diversity in our classrooms
and on our campuses.
We look forward to filing our briefs with
the Supreme Court in February. We will be joined by institutions
representing a broad spectrum of American society as they file friend
of the court briefs articulating the value of diversity in
education, religious and corporate environments, among others.
The debate will be important and robust,
and in the end, we believe the Supreme Court will find our admissions
policies to be fair and legal under the Constitution of the United
States of America.
information on the admissions lawsuits >>
January 15, 2003
by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman >>