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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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UW admissions policy lacks transparency

Regent President David Walsh spilled the beans about diversity and the proposed "holistic" approach to admissions policy at last week's Regent hearing. He did so by characterizing the new Freshman Admissions Policy as a "race-conscious" policy. That policy statement will very likely be adopted by the full Board of Regents at its meeting later this week.

To my knowledge, no other UW official has ever used the term "race conscious." The reason should be obvious. It calls attention to and makes explicit the important role race/ethnicity plays in UW admissions decisions.

This new Freshman Admissions Policy makes two important changes in the admission process. First, each applicant's file is to be given a "holistic" or "comprehensive review" that considers all dimensions of academic performance. UW-Madison already employs this "holistic" approach. Second, this review calls for taking into account what appear to be several highly subjective, non-academic qualifications. Among them are "leadership qualities and concern for others and the community, achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas, diversity in personal background and experience, and a family legacy of success at UW-Madison."

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Why isn't the UW-Madison more open about how admissions decisions are made? Its glossy handout in the Admissions Office information packet for potential applicants, Freshman Admissions Expectations 2007-08, fails to inform prospective students and their parents that race/ethnicity is even considered in admissions decisions.

The closest it comes is its reference, as noted above, to "diversity in personal background and experience." Such vagueness will not be helpful to Wisconsin minority families with children who face important decisions about where to apply for college admission.

The opening sentence of this glossy handout is also misleading in stating that "Admission is competitive and selective." In light of Regent Walsh's statement, should not that sentence be revised to read: "Admission is competitive, selective, and race-conscious?"

If diversity is to be "celebrated," as campus officials regularly contend it should be, why not indicate clearly in the admissions material that minorities are encouraged to apply. Why not add that "targeted" minority applicants who are not admissible on a competitive

basis (and possibly also on a selective basis) may gain admission on the basis of non-academic considerations, most notably rate/ethnicity?

Even better, why not publish separate "Likelihood of Admission" charts for minority and non-minority applicants? Such charts would demonstrate that for all except the top academically-qualified applicants, admission rates for minority applicants who have comparable qualifications, measured by test scores and high school class rank, exceed those — often far exceed those — for non-minority applicants.

Campus officials should be proud to publish this information. The results would show that diversity efforts are succeeding because minority applicants, and presumably the minority freshman enrollment increases that follow, receive a significant boost from a policy that takes race/ethnicity into account.

A university that prides itself on the search for truth, embodied in the "sifting and winnowing" plaque, should practice what it preaches. It should take the obvious step of providing accurate information about admissions prospects for both minority and non-minority applicants.

W. Lee Hansen, Professor Emeritus, Economics, UW-Madison
[email protected]

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