Pending an effort in federal court to postpone implementation of Proposal 2, Michigan’s public universities will be forced to comply by Dec. 23. Last week, Wayne State University’s law school became the first to adopt a plan to maintain a diverse student body despite the new constraints.
Its plan grants automatic admission to any applicant with a certain grade point average and LSAT score, but it also allows applicants who don’t meet those standards a variety of ways to make their case for admission. The admissions committee will consider geographic, experiential and other extenuating factors that may have hurt the scores of some qualified applicants low. While it isn’t perfect, the plan shows that there remain ways by which admissions officers can attempt to ensure diversity in the classroom despite the devastating ban on affirmative action.
Wayne State’s new criteria range from living in Detroit and some surrounding areas that are characterized by underserved school districts to living abroad or on Native American reservations. To use the plan’s own language, it finds innovative ways of considering the “substantial obstacles such as family or personal adversity, educational disability . and prejudice or discrimination” that can make an application seem less impressive.
Although it already faces criticism from affirmative action opponents, the carefully crafted plan likely won’t be deemed a violation of Proposal 2 if challenged in court. The plan outlines many reasons that a student may cite in seeking admission despite not qualifying for automatic admission. Taken together, these factors construct a broad categorization of what constitutes diversity and will ensure that some benefits of affirmative action will remain despite Proposal 2.
The highly selective nature of the University of Michigan Law School and our university in general would make admission guarantees based solely on GPA or test scores impractical and unwise. The other considerations included in Wayne State Law School’s new admissions policy, however, offer a model of a realistic approach to fostering diversity following the ban. Aspects of the Wayne State policy may prove useful to the University as it adapts its admissions rubric to comply with the new state constitutional amendment, which will go into effect Dec. 23 unless a stay is granted. More than ever, the University must not shy away from challenges in its quest for a well-rounded student population – the education of far too many students is at stake.