Students who missed the outcome of the nation’s affirmative action debate had the chance to catch the highlights last night.

Mira Levitan
Ted Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions, speaks on the new admissions policies during a panel discussion outlining affirmative action and the admissions at the Michigan League Ballroom yesterday. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

A panel of administrators assembled in the Michigan League Ballroom to discuss the outcome of April’s U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action decisions and the revised admissions process the decisions resulted.

“We’re not using a point system anymore,” said Theodore Spencer, director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He was joined by a panel consisting of General Counsel Marvin Krislov, LSA Dean Terrance McDonald, and Prof. emerita Patricia Gurin.

Spencer and McDonald described the new application process as having increased faculty input – with faculty reviewing applications. Applications contain more questions about students and their family’s background and place greater emphasis on their socioeconomic situation.

Short-answer questions were added and expanded as well as an optional essay to discuss awards, honors and significant experiences. Students also have the option to include SAT-II, AP and IB scores. New teacher and counselor recommendation forms ask officials to elaborate on what the students contribute to the classroom.

Spencer added that more information is available now than in the old process, which will lead to a more “holistic decision.” Much of the new policy already exists in more selective schools and puts the University’s application process in line with those of peer institutions.

As part of a new admissions process, the 25,000 applications will be viewed by readers, such as former faculty members, and admissions counselors. To accommodate this, the admissions staff will grow by 25 percent to 25 members. This new review process consists of a blind view where the counselor does not know the reader’s recommendation. After both reviews if the counselor and reader are in agreement, the applicant most likely moves forward. Inconsistencies will be reviewed by a third person, most probably an assistant admissions officer.

“We are looking for consistency and validation,” Spencer said as he articulated the review process. Since the point system no longer exists, the application will be subjectively reviewed with most emphasis on academics and curricula. Race, athletics, community service and other factors will be considered just like in the past though no weight will be assigned.

In an effort to explain the new process to prospective student, admissions counselors will visit more than 500 high schools. E-mails and updated view-books explaining the new admissions process are being sent to students and high school counselors. Students are also being telephoned and encouraged to apply without hesitation.

“I don’t think we, the admissions office, are worried about recruiting minority students,” Spencer said, adding that the main concern is to explain the admissions process. “The process will work for them this year as it did in the past.”

McDonald pointed out that the old admissions process was challenged on legal grounds, not because it was unsuccessful. The LSA faculty has “extreme excitement about the quality and diversity of LSA students,” he said. The faculty wants a “mix of people and quality of people that is stimulating. … It works as well as the old policy and it will be a great success.”

Gurin cited research at Harvard and Michigan Law Schools that shows more experience with diverse peers demonstrates more engagement in education. Gurin stated “old-fashioned racism is gone,” and most people know that they do not have any prejudice on a conscious level. “Unconscious prejudice is alive and well,” Gurin said, adding that diverse experience helps break down unconscious prejudice.

Gurin said that the University wants diversity for “educational factors, not just because we like the way it looks.” It is not enough to simply be in a diverse community but people must interact and experience diversity, she added.

“It’s not exposure but making use of diversity in the classroom that makes diversity work,” she said. Gurin also mentioned that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recognized the importance of diversity in her opinion following the hearings.

In an effort to consolidate two hours of Supreme Court arguments into five minutes, Krislov said the Supreme Court affirmed the educational effects of diversity. The rulings in the cases of [Grutter v. Bollinger] and [Gratz v. Bollinger] differed because the admissions process in the Law School was “narrowly-tailored” with academic achievement as the primary quality. The Court ruled against the University in the undergraduate case because the admissions process was not narrowly tailored and “too-mechanistic.”

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