Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.
A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.
The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.
Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.
Williams and Dean of Students Lori Berquam said CEO had filed an open records request on the UW admissions process for both undergraduates and law school applicants and had already set the wheels in motion to orchestrate a “coordinated attack” against the campus.
Student reaction to the reports has been swift and intense, and a joint statement from a group of student leaders said the reports are an attack on the entire UW campus.
But Clegg said Affirmative Action is just a way for admissions processes to discriminate.
“[CEO applauds] laws on the books banning discrimination. We don’t think it makes sense to layer politically correct discrimination […] and think it’s going to work,” he said.
The reports looked at ACT and SAT scores as well as LSAT scores, retention rates and probability of admission based on ethnicity.
UW sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab said the use of percentages of students versus actual numbers is an inherent problem with the way Clegg’s data is presented.
Percentages conceal the actual nature of the numbers, she said, which show white students as the clear majority.
Williams and Berquam both said they will not shy away from the admissions process, which looks at a student from a holistic perspective, taking into account many factors, including test scores, grades, extracurriculars and ethnicity.
“We believe in what we’re doing. We believe it to our toes,” Williams said.
UW is not the first school to face similar claims from Clegg and CEO. A similar set of reports was released at the University of Nebraska and Arizona State University in 2008, according to the CEO website.
In 2003, CEO filed a brief with the Supreme Court against the University of Michigan’s admissions process, which factored in race and ethnicity, according to the website.
Williams stressed the need for students to mobilize, and the students present did not seem to need any convincing.
“Don’t wait for us to show the way,” Williams said to students, who were already assembling poster board to make signs against the CEO president’s report and visit.
A series of events has been organized by multiple students and student groups as a rebuttal to Clegg’s visit and report through a Facebook group, including a protest at the 11 a.m. press conference, poster making at the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztl?n office during most of the afternoon, a rally at 6 p.m. on Bascom Hill and a press conference to follow the Law School debate at 8:30 p.m.
Members of Multicultural Student Coalition and MEChA were present at the meeting and were involved in organizing, but members either declined interviews or did not return calls.