A group of state lawmakers is seeking to overturn the University of Wisconsin system’s new admissions policy that requires campuses to review each applicant individually and consider factors such as race and past experiences along with academic record.
The legislators say the policy violates a 1973 state law prohibiting state universities from basing admissions decisions on race, gender, or religion.
Nineteen lawmakers, including 18 Republicans and one Democrat, sent a letter Feb. 20 to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, asking him to give an opinion on the matter. Mr. Van Hollen’s office is reviewing the letter, his spokesman said.
The new policy was approved unanimously last month by the board of regents that governs all 26 of Wisconsin’s public colleges. It would require admissions officers to provide a “holistic review” of each applicant, examining his or her socioeconomic status, membership in any historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group, and evidence of leadership and/or community service, as well as his or her academic record.
State Rep. Steve Nass, a Republican and one of the policy’s leading opponents, said that the new system doesn’t do enough to make sure that colleges are weighing academic achievement as the most important factor in admissions.
“Academics has to be number one. Period,” he said.
Mr. Nass said the changes could lead to a “brain-drain” if high-achieving students who do not get into their first-choice schools go to college outside the state.
But David F. Giroux, a spokesman for the board of regents, argued that not much will change under the new system, since it generally reflects what many of the state’s colleges—including the flagship University of Wisconsin campus in Madison—are doing anyway. He noted that UW-Madison and other campuses are already using a holistic review process in examining applications. He said the board was simply trying to update the system’s official policy, which was enacted in 1972 and is no longer used by some colleges.
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2007 edition of Education Week