UW Madison alleged admission discrimination

A study conducted by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative group opposed to discrimination based on race and ethnicity, concluded that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has discriminatory admission policies.

According to the study, black and Hispanic students who were admitted to UW-Madison in 2007 and 2008 were not as qualified as white and Asian students who were rejected. The study cited lower test scores, class rank and retention rates among the groups as evidence.

Ultimately, the group believes the determining factor in UW-Madison admissions is race.

The study makes the claim that preferential treatment of minorities was evident from the average ACT scores of the compared groups. The median ACT score for blacks admitted into the school in 2007 was 24 and for Hispanics was 26, whereas for whites it was 29.

The study also said the university’s admission rates for groups are discriminatory. During the 2007-2008 school year, 8 in 10 blacks and 7 in 10 Hispanics were accepted. Comparatively, 6 in 10 whites and Asians were accepted.

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, said universities frequently lead people to believe they use race and ethnicity solely as a tiebreaker, but it is actually a much bigger factor.

“It turns out that race and ethnicity are being given a huge amount of weight in determining who gets in and who doesn’t,” Clegg said.

UW-Madison reacted strongly to the allegations, holding a press conference on Sept. 13 following the study’s release. The university stood by its admission policies during the conference.

The press conference was protested by various student groups who took offense to the study, Clegg said.

In a press release, the university’s Interim Chancellor David Ward said school officials are confident their practices are constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that say race is a permissible factor when part of a holistic admissions process.

“We know that enrolling students of all cultures and backgrounds improves the learning environment at UW–Madison and prepares everyone to be competitive in an increasingly multicultural world,” Ward said.

The “holistic admissions process” that Ward spoke of is one that takes several factors into consideration when assessing applications — not just one or two — according to John Lucas, senior university relations specialist for the university.

Marquette has a similar approach to its admission policies.

William Welburn, associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Marquette, said every school, no matter public or private, is committed to educating the next generation.

“People come with different skills and types of knowledge that are reflected in different ways, like tests, service or academic performance,” Welburn said. “We look for that … we don’t just look for high test scores.”

Roby Blust, dean of undergraduate admissions and enrollment planning, named the factors that go into assessing an applicant. He said Marquette looks at the strength of a student’s academic program, with courses taken and grades received in those courses as most important.

Standardized test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities are also important but serve as secondary factors, he said.