The University’s spirited defense of the
affirmative action lawsuits was a signal to the world that the
University values its diversity and will protect the rights of
underrepresented minorities. Unfortunately, over the past two
years, the University has had less and less to show for its
efforts. Recently released statistics on University freshman
demographics show that for the second year in a row there has been
a decline in the overall percentage of freshman minorities.
University officials should be concerned with minority enrollment
trends from the last several years and search for ways to maintain
a sizable “critical mass” of underrepresented minority
The figures show a fall in the number of black students, from
9.4 percent in 2001 to 7.6 percent this year. There has also been a
fall in the percentage of Hispanic freshmen. An important
contributor to the fall in minority enrollment is the effect of the
affirmative actions lawsuits. The court battle may have discouraged
many potential applicants from applying to the University. The
uncertainty surrounding the future of the University’s admissions
policies may have had the effect of decreasing minority enrollment.
The court’s decision removes this uncertainty, and hopefully
minority enrollment figures will rebound.
A diverse student body is a crucial element in any well-rounded
education. The decline in minority enrollment over the past several
years should serve as a warning bell to the administration to
utilize its new undergraduate admissions policy to the fullest.
To help implement the new, more rigorous admissions process, the
University will hire 16 new readers and five more counselors to
screen applications before they are passed on to senior admissions
officials. To these new employees, the University should emphasize
the importance of understanding the background and life experiences
of each individual applicant. Even though grades and standardized
tests are an important element of the selections process, an
applicant’s role in his or her own community setting should also be
taken into account.
As an institution of higher learning, the University is uniquely
capable of bringing together students of all ethnic, religious and
socioeconomic backgrounds and creating an environment in which
those students can learn as much from one another as they can in
lecture halls and from textbooks.