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Campus Connection: Conservative think tank reports 'severe' racial discrimination at UW-Madison

Campus Connection: Conservative think tank reports 'severe' racial discrimination at UW-Madison

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Whites and Asians aren't getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That's what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is "severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions" at Wisconsin's flagship institution of higher education.

The CEO -- a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes "colorblind public policies" and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs -- reports that UW-Madison gives "African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians" in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.

UW-Madison responded with a news release Tuesday morning that reaffirms the university's "commitment to the value of enrolling a highly diverse student body, which creates a vibrant academic community as well as alumni who are fully engaged in the global marketplace."

UW-Madison uses what is known as a "holistic" approach to determine who is admitted to its undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. That process, the university states, "takes into account a range of factors, including grades, standardized test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, leadership and written statements." It also takes into account race.

The university notes that this "approach is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Michigan affirmative action cases that say race is a permissible factor in consideration of holistic admissions."

According to the executive summary of the CEO report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: "In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites."

But according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, a UW-Madison associate professor of education policy studies and sociology, "those numbers don't add up."

She notes that figures available on the UW-Madison website show that "in 2007 and 2008, UW admitted about 4 in 10 black applicants, 6.5 in 10 Hispanic applicants, and nearly 6 in 10 white applicants."

Some on the UW-Madison campus were struggling late Monday to make sense of what the release of the CEO report might mean for the university.

"Are we going to get sued for not having enough white people at our school? How crazy is that?" posed David Vines, who is a representative on the Student Services Finance Committee of the Associated Students of Madison, which is UW-Madison's student government. Vines spoke to the Cap Times late Monday night after learning of the impending CEO report, but before reading it.

"These organizations have as their mission to systematically dial back the gains from the Civil Rights era," Damon Williams, UW-Madison's vice provost for diversity, told a group of student leaders Monday night at the Red Gym in a segment recorded by WKOW.com.

Roger Clegg, the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, was scheduled to hold a press conference late Tuesday morning to talk more about his group's studies.

Vines says student leaders are preparing a Tuesday rally at 6 p.m. on Bascom Hill to protest the CEO's policies.

A joint statement sent to the Cap Times by UW-Madison students Sarah Mathews, Noah Whitford, Damon Terrell, Martin Feehan and Vines reads: "The Center for Equal Opportunity has launched an attack on the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the goal of dividing our campus community. As Badgers we stand together in support of the integrity of our student body and the institution that unites us."

A CEO press release states the studies outlining discrimination at UW-Madison "are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court."

The CEO studies found that the "odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1,330-to-1 and 1,494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites."

The CEO adds that for law school admissions, the "racial discrimination found was also severe, with the weight given to ethnicity much greater than given to, for example, Wisconsin residency. Thus, an out-of-state black applicant with grades and LSAT scores at the median for that group would have had a 7 out 10 chance of admission and an out-of-state Hispanic a 1 out of 3 chance -- but an in-state Asian with those grades and scores had a 1 out of 6 chance and an in-state white only a 1 out of 10 chance."

CEO chairman Linda Chavez said in a news release that "this is the most severe undergraduate admissions discrimination that CEO has ever found in the dozens of studies it has published over the last 15 years."

Writing in her blog, Goldrick-Rab -- who chairs UW-Madison's committee on undergraduate recruitment, admissions and financial aid -- counters that whether or not preferences are being exercised is beside the point.

"At issue is how we help all students succeed," Goldrick-Rab writes Monday in a post that is critical of the CEO.

In a different post early Tuesday morning, Goldrick-Rab adds: "Here's some stuff you gotta know. In Wisconsin 2.5 percent of blacks are in prison. That rate is 8 times higher than it is for whites. Just 65 percent of blacks earn a high school diploma on time in Wisconsin, compared to 95 percent of whites. But for some reason, it outrages the Center for Equal Opportunity that in 2007-2008, blacks made up 2.6 percent of the student body admitted to UW-Madison -- while 85.5 percent of those incoming classes were white."

Concludes Goldrick-Rab: "Have you EVER walked around UW-Madison's campus and thought, ‘Something must be wrong. There's just wayyy too many brown people are here.' Yeah, that's what I thought."

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