Two prominent universities are abandoning their long-standing practices of running summer-enrichment programs specifically for minority students.
Faced with the possibility of separate investigations by federal authorities, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this month that they will open enrollment in the programs to students of all races.
MIT officials said they would continue to consider race while reviewing applications for programs serving students who are in high school or are rising college freshmen. But they will stop offering slots only to minority students.
“After reviewing the programs and relevant law, MIT decided earlier this year to modify the selection criteria while maintaining the critical goals and purposes of these programs,” Robert Redwine, the dean of undergraduate education at the university in Cambridge, Mass., said in a statement last week.
Meanwhile, Princeton officials issued a Feb. 5 statement announcing their plans to alter admissions practices for a summer program for undergraduates studying public policy.
“In the current legal climate, the university does not believe that it can continue to offer a program in which admission is restricted by race,” Princeton officials said.
Under a Microscope
Both schools made the changes following action by a group opposed to affirmative action.
Last year, the Center for Equal Opportunity filed a complaint about the MIT programs with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights. In a letter to Princeton officials, the Sterling, Va.-based group had threatened earlier this year to file a similar complaint against the private university in New Jersey.
“It’s very gratifying that they will be belatedly ending these racially exclusive programs,” said Roger B. Clegg, the general counsel for the group. “It’s disturbing that colleges would have programs like this in the first place.”
The Center for Equal Opportunity has filed civil rights complaints against other summer-enrichment programs similar to MIT’s and Princeton’s, he said.
Princeton will go ahead with its program this summer with the 30 minority applicants who had already been accepted to the program. But university officials said they would change the admissions policies for the 2004 program after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a case challenging affirmative action policies used in admissions decisions at the University of Michigan. The court will hear arguments on April 1 and is expected to rule by summer.
In announcing the changes, both MIT and Princeton said that they were committed to admitting students of all races, but that they would do so within the current legal interpretations of affirmative action.
“MIT is committed to recruiting excellent students from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, because all students benefit from learning in an environment that mirrors the diversity of America and our global society,” Mr. Redwine said in his statement.
“For compelling educational reasons, Princeton has been and remains committed to having a diverse student body at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to taking affirmative steps to enable and encourage students from a broad range of backgrounds to study at Princeton,” the Ivy League school said in its statement.