University officials seemed pleased last week when they announced that the total freshman enrollment declined by 1.9 percent from last year, an intended drop as part of a long-term enrollment management strategy. However, the overall dip also featured less-encouraging enrollment declines within two significant minority groups: black/African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander students. While University officials contentedly cited an overall increase in minority enrollment, they should be wary of overlooking the losses amongst these important groups.

The number of black students in this year’s freshmen class dropped half a percent from last year’s class, from 499 students to 433. Meanwhile, Asian/Pacific Islander enrollment experienced an even bigger decline, from 692 incoming freshmen last year (12.5 percent of total freshmen) to only 588 freshmen this year (11.2 percent). This downward trend is especially worrying with a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the lawsuit against the University’s admissions policies approaching, as even the slightest hint of easing off its affirmative action admissions policy could suggest weakness in the University’s stance. While the University maintains its strong commitment to diversity, it would be better off entering the next phase of the legal proceedings without any cracks in its armor.

University officials announcing the enrollment declines reiterated the importance of diversity in their selections. “Diversity was an institutional priority before the lawsuits and it will remain so once decisions are rendered,” said Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. Certainly this emphasis on diversity is demonstrated by the strength and activism of a variety of diverse student groups on campus.

Furthermore, the University’s contention that the decline among black/African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander students is mitigated by an increase among Hispanic and Native American students is an inadequate defense in this situation. While growth among these minority groups is noteworthy and undoubtedly important, the University’s apparent contentment with bolstering certain minorities at the expense of others smacks of a quota system. In the lawsuits, the University is defending its “race-based” admissions policy against claims of employing quotas. By increasing enrollment for all minority demographics, the University can better distinguish its policies as not based on quotas.

While this policy certainly does not prohibit the Admissions Office from selecting a freshmen class regardless of racial enrollment trends, this year’s decline among black/African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander students does not serve the University’s best interests. What’s the point in going all the way to Washington D.C. to defend the admissions policy, if the Office of Admissions does not carry out the policy here on campus?

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