GW officials outline affirmative action policy

While the University of Michigan’s strict affirmative action policy has recently come under attack and may be argued in the nation’s highest court, GW officials said they strive to increase diversity on campus without a quota system.

GW administrators said they only look at race and ethnicity when there are “mitigating” circumstances involved, including consideration of high schools in certain urban areas that do not offer honors or Advanced Placement courses.

However, some white students are “just as disadvantaged as minority students,” so decisions are not necessarily made along racial lines, said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.

“We don’t make (a) differentiation in terms of standard,” Chernak said. “It has more to do with being practical with regard to the high school or school system.”

President George W. Bush’s administration may go before the Supreme Court to argue the constitutionality of Michigan’s admissions policy in April. Last fall, three white applicants said they were discriminated against by being denied admission to the Big 10 school.

Besides receiving “points” for academic record, students receive “points” for their racial and ethnic backgrounds when Michigan officials tally up applications.

High school record is “probably the most important” factor admissions officials consider at GW, Chernak said. ACT or SAT scores, class rank, ethnic and geographic background, past experiences, teacher recommendations and quality of personal essays are also considered.

“Basically, when necessary, we will use race as a criteria just as we do other criteria,” said Kathryn Napper, director of admissions.

Officials said the University experienced a 10 percent increase in Asian, black and Hispanic student applications from the incoming freshman class, mirroring GW’s 10 percent increase in total applications. The University plans to only accept about 2,250 students out of the 18,600 total applications.

Currently, about 14 percent of the student body is Asian, 8 percent is Hispanic, 6 percent is black and 5 percent are international students.

“Ideally, we would like to come as close to mirroring American society as possible,” Chernak said. He also said that “most non-white students that apply to GW are qualified applicants.”

Hispanics make up almost 13 percent of the total U.S. population, while blacks and Asians account for 12 and 4 percent, respectively, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Black Student Union President Chivonne Romney said she believes affirmative action is portrayed negatively and agrees with the system GW currently uses.

“I don’t necessarily think the point system is better. I don’t think you should get points for being black,” said Romney, a senior. “But there is obviously something that has to be changed if they want to be representative of the general population … they are seven percent off.”

Romney said the BSU works with the admissions office to help recruit and spread outreach to more prospective black students.

“When (prospective students) take their tour, they don’t necessarily see as many black people on campus as there actually are … we try to help them get a better perspective,” she said.

Some other students also said they support the University’s approach to affirmative action.

“I’m glad GW doesn’t have a traditional affirmative action policy or point system for admissions,” freshman Kelly Ward said, “because that means each student is being evaluated on his own merits, not on his background.”

But some other students said they are in favor of affirmative action because the policy increases campus diversity.

“I agree with affirmative action because (it) looks at where you’re coming from. It does work, also,” freshman Kunal Johar said. “You’re not going to get rid of it because it would cause too much commotion.”

Some other universities have policies falling in between Michigan and GW’s. Georgetown University, which Black Enterprise magazine

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