Sullivan concerned with racial profiling

? The United States Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider whether public colleges and universities may use race-conscious admissions processes. ? Commonly referred to as affirmative action, the practice allows for racial classification in college admissions to benefit minorities historically subjected to discrimination. ? It is intended to increase diversity among students in order to enhance the educational experience for all. ? Without affirmative action in the admissions process, achieving UVM’s dedication to diversity could become difficult, President-elect Thomas Sullivan said. ? “I firmly believe that the national policy is promoting the public good and if it is to go away, shame on America,” Sullivan told Vermont Public Radio last month. ? The court last considered the issue in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger, holding that public colleges and universities could use race as a qualitative factor in the admissions process. ? “It would be a test case to challenge Grutter v. Bollinger, which is the current U.S. Supreme Court case approving of affirmative action as a discretionary opportunity on college campuses,” Sullivan said. ? Scholars in the field have speculated that the court’s five more conservative justices are likely to do away with – or severely weaken – the convention. ? “There’s a majority on the current court that dislikes race-conscious policies that sort us, or classify us, or that allocate benefits and burdens on a basis of race,” said Alec Ewald, UVM assistant professor of political science and a civil rights scholar. ? Ewald said this aversion of the majority could result in their dismantling of the decades-old policy used to increase diversity among students. ? Sullivan, who is an attorney and constitutional law scholar by trade, promised to further racial diversity at UVM as president during his community reception Feb. 22. ? “As your strategic plan urges, we will embrace the diversity and internationalization of the University,” he said. ? This University-wide commitment has been vigorously pursued in recent years. ? Under the direction of former President Daniel Mark Fogel, several presidential commissions were established to increase diversity and create an inviting atmosphere for minority students. ? These measures yielded significant growth of minority enrollment: In the fall of 2009, the rate of entering undergraduate American students of color was 11.9 percent, representing an increase of four times that of a decade prior, according to the president’s website. ? The Board of Trustees named diversity as a University-wide commitment in a 2004 statement following the Grutterdecision. ? The statement, “Why Diversity is an Academic and Institutional Strategic Priority for the University of Vermont,” cites the landmark case and pledges UVM’s allegiance to diversifying the University. ? “We must recognize, however, that diversity goes well beyond curriculum,” the statement indicated, noting that “diversity of experiences, opinions and views” among students leads to an “enriched” education. ? “A diverse UVM community is a compelling institutional interest that is indispensible to achieving our goal of academic excellence,” the statement continued. ? The court’s disposition of Fisher v. University of Texas is likely to restrict race considerations in college admissions processes at public institutions. ? The case calls into question the constitutionality of the University of Texas system. ? In Texas, students that graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class receive automatic admission to the system’s colleges, and those that are below that threshold are then entered into a complicated system whereby race is considered a factor for admission. ? Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student who fell just below the 10 percent threshold, claimed that Texas couldn’t have both a race neutral and race conscious system in their admissions process. ? Oral arguments in the case are set to take place in September. ?