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Developing Diversity-Building Admissions Programs

A step-by-step guide to developing a “narrowly tailored” admissions policy in a constitutionally permissible way

From Preserving Diversity in Higher Education: A Manual on Admissions Policies and Procedures After the University of Michigan Decisions, Bingham McCutchen LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP (2004) (hereinafter the “Diversity Manual”)

What to Do

  1. Formalize an admissions policy statement
    • tied to institution’s general mission statement
    • developed and approved by senior policy-making body
    • explicitly state the role of diversity in admissions process
  2. Evaluate race-neutral alternatives: Percentage Plans
    • effects may be attributable to other factors, such as recruitment and scholarship programs focused on minority candidates
    • minority students may be admitted into the public school system, but continue to be underrepresented at the flagship universities within the system
    • overly mechanical
    • not workable in graduate and professional schools, as well as other contexts
  3. Develop a diversity-focused admissions plan
    • Flexibility:
      • Evaluate test scores and grades in context, not in an overly formulaic way.
        • Mathematical formulas should never be used.
      • Applications should be reviewed in an individualized way.
        • Take many factors, including race, into consideration.
    • Plus Factors:
      • Tangible: race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic, residency
      • Intangible: leadership skills, musical abilities
      • No particular factor can dominate the decision
      • Use discretion in evaluating plus factors

What to Avoid

  • Avoid rigidity.
    • Discretion can be used
      • Applicants who possess the same diversity factor do not have to be given the same weight
  • Avoid mechanical formulas.
    • Do not use programs that automatically assign a given number of points based on race.