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On Campus: UW-Madison faces lawsuit threat over race-based admissions policies

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Bascom Hall shines in the sun on the UW-Madison campus.

Denied admission to UW-Madison because you’re white or Asian? Come, join our lawsuit.

That’s the pitch being made by a conservative nonprofit legal group in Washington, D.C., which on Monday launched three websites seeking students denied admission to Harvard, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill or UW-Madison.

“The purpose of the websites is to educate the public about the unfair and unconstitutional admission policies of the three universities and seek out students who have been recently rejected from these schools,” said the Project on Fair Representation in a news release.

UW-Madison has said throughout the years that its admissions policies, which allow for consideration of race and other measures of diversity among a menu of qualifications, fall within the law despite regular challenges by conservative groups. The university has argued that the policies benefit all students by exposing them to people from different backgrounds and viewpoints.

Project on Fair Representation is a one-man legal group started and run by Edward Blum, a former politician who turned to fighting what he perceives as unfair racial policies in court after striking out in political elections, according to the New York Times.

The group sponsors lawsuits alleging racial discrimination against whites and Asians in areas including education, voting and employment. A recent case, Fisher v. the University of Texas-Austin, centered on a white student, Abigail Fisher, who said she was discriminated against in the admissions process after the university did not offer her a spot at the institution in 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and issued its ruling last June. The court rejected a lower court’s decision upholding the Texas university’s admissions policies as they pertain to race. However, it did not overturn earlier cases upholding other universities’ limited race-based admissions policies. The court referred the case back to a lower appeals court for further consideration. It’s pending.

Blum said the court’s ruling puts the admissions policies of the three targeted schools out of bounds legally. “The Supreme Court last year imposed incredibly high hurdles colleges must overcome when using racial and ethnic preferences in their admissions policies,” he said in a statement. “We believe all of these schools are breaking the law.”

But UW-Madison has argued the ruling has no direct bearing on its policies and said it would continue current practices. “We have reviewed our policies ... and believe this approach is appropriate and consistent with the law,” said provost Paul DeLuca.

The subject is a sensitive one at UW-Madison, which has tried to increase the numbers of minorities in recent years. The school suffered an embarrassing scandal in 2000 when an official superimposed a black student onto a photograph of a white crowd for the cover of an admissions catalog.


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