Administrators at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University reversed a controversial change to its admissions policies by reinstating race and sexual orientation as factors Sunday. This decision came less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the two lawsuits challenging the University of Michigan’s use of race in admissions.

By a seven-to-five margin, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors decided to rescind changes they approved to the admissions policy at a March 10 meeting, when they voted to eliminate race and sexual orientation as admissions plus factors.

“The Board members had the opportunity to further understand the complexity and impact of their actions on March 10, and felt that they did not need to implement a new policy, that the old policy was sufficient to stay within the dictates of the law,” Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Jessica Hangey, Virginia Tech chapter secretary of the American Civil Liberties Union, said most of the student body supported Virginia Tech’s original policy and were pleased to see it reinstated.

“I’m glad that they finally listened to the community and students,” she said. “Virginia Tech has a policy that’s pretty good as far as affirmative action goes. The only time that race comes into place is if there is a tie (between two applicants).”

But Patrick Gallagher, chairman of the Virginia Tech College Republicans, said he supported the new policy adopted March 10 because he believes race should never be considered in admissions.

He said the Board gave in to pressure from the administration, faculty and student body. “They gave in to the loudest voice,” he said.

The Board of Visitors modified the original policy after Virginia state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore told school administrators that the policy might be deemed unconstitutional and become the subject of lawsuits filed against the university, said Sterling Daniel, Virginia Tech Student Government Association president.

But a lawsuit against the school might occur if the high court overturns the University’s race-conscious policies in a ruling expected to be announced in late June or early July.

Some students at the school are worried such a ruling would force the school to change its policies once again, Daniel said. “There are students out there who are very concerned with the case. The students know about it and are keeping an eye on it,” he said.

Hangey said student activists on campus are the most concerned with the potential ruling.

Hincker said Board members did take into account the upcoming ruling on Michigan’s cases in their decision to reinstate the use of race in Virginia Tech’s admissions policies.

Daniel said he agrees with the Board’s decision because the court has not yet banned the use of race in admissions.

“I think (reinstating the policy) is the appropriate thing to do at this time … the law has not changed yet,” he said. “When the law does change, if it does, they’ll have to review it.”

Gallagher said the Board should have waited for the court ruling before making any changes to its policy.

Hincker said the policy has long been a source of discussion between the attorney general and the university, and that the attorney general has written several briefs to the school regarding its policies. Administrators will continue to seek the attorney general’s guidance, he added.

“The attorney general has opined considerably on this issue,” he said. “Our programs will be consistent with advice and guidance from the office of the attorney general.”

Virginia Tech’s student body was split over the new policy approved March 10, partially because the change occurred during a closed-door meeting, Daniel said, and because the Board did not list the issue of the school’s race-conscious policies on the meeting agenda.

Daniel added that he did not see any reason to eliminate sexual orientation as an admissions factor in the new policy. “All students and everyone applying here should be free from discrimination.”

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