A state legislator is calling for a review of the University of Wisconsin’s admission practices after an organization released a study that labels higher admission rates among black and Latino students at UW as discriminatory.
The report, released by the conservative Center for Equality Opportunity, purports the university’s holistic admission practices, which factor race and ethnicity into acceptance decisions, gives heavy preference to black and Hispanic students over their white and Asian counterparts in both undergraduate and law school admissions.
The data used in the report was obtained through an initial Freedom of Information Act request and then a lawsuit filed against the university. According to Wisconsin Court System records, the first judicial attempt to obtain admissions information began in 1999.
In addition to rates of admission sorted by racial and ethnic identification, SAT and ACT scores, high school rank and other data points were employed to demonstrate “an extremely large degree of preference” granted to certain students.
According to the report, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanic students as compared to about 6 out of 10 Asian and white applicants for 2007 and 2008.
CEO’s findings also state the 24-point median ACT score for admitted black students was two points lower than the median score for Hispanics, six points lower than Asian applicants and five points below white students’ median score of 29.
As a result of the findings, Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, issued a statement calling for an oversight hearing to review the “possibly illegal” process. Nass chairs the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities.
“The study raises serious allegations against the UW System that they would use race and ethnicity as a core admissions test,” said Mike Mikalsen, a spokesperson for Nass. “It seems to show numerous students are being bypassed, with hundreds of more qualified students not being admitted.”
Mikalsen said the hearing, which would be scheduled in the upcoming weeks, could lead to the drafting of new legislation concerning the issues at hand or a request being made to the attorney general for formal review.
He added litigation against UW lies “almost certainly” on the horizon.
Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said in an interview with The Badger Herald that while the committee will review the admissions process, she characterized the matter as a “witch hunt” catalyzed by an anti-affirmative action organization.
“We need to review if indeed there are qualified people not being let in,” she said. “But we also need to be looking at how to give students of color who may have come from different backgrounds a chance.”
UW administration issued a statement Tuesday in response to the charges against the admissions process, which the statement described as “holistic, competitive and selective.”
In the statement, Interim Chancellor David Ward said the university does not grant applicants admittance on the isolated grounds of race or ethnicity.
A range of factors, including high school grades, letters of recommendation, involvement in activities and standardized testing scores play a role in determining whether an applicant is admitted, the statement said.