Law & Courts

Colleges Get Help On Admissions Rulings

By Sean Cavanagh — February 11, 2004 2 min read

The legalese that infiltrated the lexicon of academia last year with a pair of far-reaching U.S. Supreme Court decisions (think “critical mass,” “individualized consideration,” and “compelling interest”) should act as the starting point for college and university leaders in rewriting campus mission statements and admissions policies, a new guidebook suggests.

A manual written by two former civil rights lawyers for the U.S. Department of Education offers advice to the nation’s higher education institutions on how to craft admissions plans that comply with the Supreme Court rulings last year involving the University of Michigan. The court allowed the use of race as a factor in admissions but struck down a system of awarding bonus points to minority applicants. (“Justices Give K-12 Go-Ahead to Promote Diversity,” July 9, 2003.)

Download “Diversity in Higher Education: A Strategic Planning and Policy Manual Regarding Federal Law in Admissions, Financial Aid, and Outreach,” from the College Board. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.) The College Board also maintains a page of the latest news concerning diversity in education.

The manual, “Diversity in Higher Education: A Strategic Planning and Policy Manual Regarding Federal Law in Admissions, Financial Aid, and Outreach,” draws from the language of the court’s June 2003 rulings in offering advice to campus leaders and policymakers. It was published by the College Board, the nonprofit, New York City-based organization that sponsors the SAT college- admissions test.

To comply with the rulings, colleges should be prepared to show in mission statements and admissions policies that diversity is not an end in itself, but rather a way of bringing direct educational benefits to their schools, according to authors Arthur L. Coleman and Scott R. Palmer. The benefits could include improved learning and teaching, better relationships between students of different backgrounds, and better preparation for careers working in an increasingly diverse society.

Colleges should also consider taking other steps, the lawyers advise, including: considering race-neutral alternatives in admissions, and if they do not make them part of their policy, explaining why; judging all applicants according to the same criteria; defining “diversity” in a way that refers to more than just race or ethnicity; and promoting efforts to support diversity on campus in ways other than through mission statements and admissions policies.

The authors cautioned, however, that their advice is not necessarily lawsuit-proof.

“Little here is about absolutes,” Mr. Palmer said in Washington on Feb. 4, at a discussion on the guidebook. “A lot of this is about trying to balance legal risks.”

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Considers Issue of Damages That Comes Up in Many Suits Over School Policies
The justices weigh whether students still have a case for "nominal damages" when schools change a policy in response to a lawsuit.
6 min read
supreme court IMG
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh Whether Schools May Discipline Students for Internet Speech
The justices will hear the appeal of a school district whose discipline of a student for her vulgar message on Snapchat was overturned.
5 min read
Law & Courts District's At-Large Elections Violated Minority Voting Rights, Federal Appeals Court Finds
The case involves school board elections in a majority Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish district with a large Black and Latino population.
3 min read
Image of people at voting booths.
LPETTET/E+
Law & Courts Federal Appeals Court Revives Teacher's Pay-Discrimination Case Over Starting Salary
The court weighed an administrator's alleged comment that the teacher's starting pay was less because her husband worked.
3 min read