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December 01, 2005 - Image 16

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-12-01

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_ . .

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How the University's

new application process has panned out since the 2003 U.S Supreme Co

By Tomislav Ladika Daily Staff Reporter

I

ne student, a white male from a rigorous high
school hoping to become a doctor, writes
about the pride he felt upon being named
Eagle Scout. Another, a black female with a
3.8 grade point average but a 22 ACT score,
discusses her passion to work with people
of different nationalities as an engineer. The
third, an Asian male with a family income
below $25,000 who attends a high school
that sends few students to college, recounts

how a teacher refused to purchase chemicals for a science-fair
experiment he had spent six months conducting.

Each student has poured their dreams
and aspirations into their applications to
the University, and now groups of high
school counselors sitting in the Michi-
gan Union ballroom have 20 minutes
to determine each applicant's fate. But
these counselors aren't making the offi-
cial decisions. The Office of Undergrad-
uate Admissions used the applications,
received in 2004, as part of a training
exercise during a workshop for high
school counselors last month. Their eval-
uations and the University's explanation
of its decision on each application shed
some light into the inner workings of the
new undergraduate admissions policy
instituted in 2003.
The recent history of the Universi-
ty's undergraduate admissions policy
is a story of controversy and change.
It involves a bitterly fought lawsuit, a
debate on the social value of diversity
that engaged students, professors and our
nation's political - and even corporate
- leaders, and a ruling from the high-
est court in America that defined the
future of affirmative action. The
product of this years-long conflict
is a revamped, yet still controversial
admissions policy. The University

praises it for creating a highly individu-
alized review process, and critics deride
it for treating race in the same way, only
using different terminology. The Uni-
versity's admissions policy is more of a
mystery now after all the debate, and it
includes several aspects that may sur-
prise you, no matter where you stand on
affirmative action.
The Applicants
hip Mijigan,"
the white male
interested in
studying medi-
cine, scored a
27 on his ACT
and earned a
3.7 recalculated GPA while attending a
high school offering Advanced Place-
ment courses in everything from Latin to
statistics to visual arts. Chip enrolled in
two AP courses his junior year and three
in his senior year, as well as honors math
and science courses. Besides Boy Scouts,
he worked as a caddy at his local coun-
try club, played soccer and participated
in a youth forum on medicine in Atlanta.
In his essay, he wrote about the suffer-

ing he felt from his parents' divorce and
explained that he overcame the pain by
finally communicating his feelings to his
parents.
"Victoria Valiant," an Asian female
who also attended a college preparatory
high school, did very well on her stan-
dardized tests, scoring a 34 on her ACT,
and completed a challenging curriculum
filled with advanced science, math, and
English classes. She played violin in
the school orchestra, attended summer
music and science camps and worked as
a debate coach. In her sophomore year,
Victoria jumped ahead one year in her
high school's honors math track, study-
ing calculus as a junior, but she received
C's in her math classes and B- grades
in her science classes for an overall 3.3
GPA. Yet she also received an encour-
aging recommendation from her high
school math teacher, who advised her to
skip ahead in math.
"Mason Blue," the Asian male and
poorest of the four applicants, is the son
of a self-employed restaurant chef and
attended a small high school offering no
AP classes. He only scored a 20 on his
ACT, but took the advanced classes that
were available and earned a 3.6 GPA.
He participated in the student council,
science Olympiad and science fair and
volunteered at a hospital. In his essays,
which were replete with grammatical
and stylistic mistakes, Mason talked
about the source of his self-determina-
tion - his parents repeatedly told him
his dream of becoming a doctor is naive,
and mistrustful teachers encourage him
to enter advanced science competitions
but fail to provide him the resources nec-
essary to compete.
The last applicant, "Anne Arbor," is a
black female from a middle-class fam-
ily who attended a large high school
offering a decent curriculum. Anne had
a 3.8 GPA while taking advanced sci-

ence, math and computer programming
courses, but scored only a 22 on her
ACT. She held several jobs while in high
school, but her most valuable experience
was voluntarily organizing food drives
through the National Honors Society. In
her essays she wrote about her passion to
become an engineer, as well as the finan-
cial and emotional consequences of her
parents' divorce.
The Admissions Process

Fl

ad they applied to the
University before the
2003 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling, the four
applicants would have
been evaluated under
a much different sys-

tem. The old points-based admissions
policy, struck down by the court for
treating race too systematically, would
have awarded Anne 20 extra points out
of a possible 150 for being an underrep-
resented minority - only blacks, His-
panics and Native Americans received
added points. Mason would receive 20
points for coming from a socio-eco-
nomically disadvantaged background,
but no points for his ethnicity, as Asians
are not considered and underrepresented
minority. The policy also awarded pre-
determined levels of points for certain
test scores, GPAs and quality of high
school curriculum, as well as bonus-
es for in-state and legacy applicants,
among other factors.
For the most part, the current admis-
sions policy, which hasn't changed sub-
stantially since it was first drafted in
the months immediately following the
June 2003 court decision, factors in
the same admissions criteria as the old
policy, but the points system has been
ditched completely in favor of a more
comprehensive, individualized review.

While the University has "always taken
into account many different factors
... what we did do is change how we
evaluate those factors," says General
Counsel Marvin Krislov, head of the
University's legal department.
Admissions officials stress that aca-
demic factors count the most, and a
student who writes excellent essays
or has an amazing personal story will
never be accepted if admissions officials
feel they will not be able to handle the
University's academics. But instead of
immediately awarding applicants a cer-
tain amount of points for their GPA or
number of AP classes, each applicant's
academic record is now viewed in the
context of the opportunities available to
them. "That's what the court was look-
ing for us to do," says University spokes-
woman Julie Peterson.
And once an admissions official deems
that an applicant has the potential to suc-
ceed academically, they examine the stu-
dent's entire personal background to see
if they can picture them as a good fit in
the campus community. When admitting
students, application readers say to them-
selves, 'I can see this student on campus,'
" explains Senior Associate Director of
Admissions Chris Lucier.
Whereas the old application included
only one general essay, under the new
policy, the University asks applicants for
more information by requiring two short
answer questions - one asks students
what they would contribute to the cam-
pus community - while the other asks
applicants to write about one of three
different topics. Each application is also
given a more thorough review, receiv-
ing separate evaluations by two different
readers. Then, if the evaluations conflict,
a senior admissions official conducts a
third review. In a small number of cases,
borderline applications are sent to a com-
mittee of faculty and admissions staff.

m

Prospective students' applicati
text of the academic opportuni

Admissions

timeline

1997
Points-based system is implemented, which awards 20 out of 150
possible points to underrepresented minorities or applicants from
socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

May 2002
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in
Cincinnati reverses Friedman's
decision on the Law School policy.

June 2003,
The court delivers its ruIng approving of the Law School policy
and striking down the LSA policy. The court agrees that race
can be used as an admissions factor for the next 25 years.
-- - - - -- - - - -- - - - - -- - - - -- - - - - - - - - -- - _ . _ _- - - - - - - - - - - - _ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

October 2
Total freshm
but overall n
enrollment o

1995
Prof. Carl Cohen obtains documents
proving the use of separate
admissions grids for minoity and
non-minority applicants.

1997
As part of a lawsuit organized by the Center
for Individual Rights, three rejected white
applicants sue the Law School and LSA for
the use of race as an admissions factor.

March 2001
US. District Judge Bernard Friedman
strikes down the Law School policy,
ruling that diversity is nota compelling
state interest.

Aprl 2003
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments
in both the LSA and Law School cases.
as thousands of students descend on the
nation's capital and protest outside.

August 2003
University administrators complete a new
undergraduate admissions policy which
replaces points with amore holistic
review process.

Oct
Total
enrol
enrol
groul

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