Letters to the Editors: On Individual Assessment & Desegregation

Letters from the Editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review

The Jan. 9 statement that announced the revocation of “legacy” considerations in the admissions process, said, “not one student of the more than 10,000 who were admitted was admitted solely on the basis of legacy.”

If legacy has long been an admissions criterion and nobody has ever been admitted “solely” on its basis, then what about race? Wouldn’t it also be true that during the long years of considering race as an admissions factor, nobody was every admitted “solely” on the basis of race?

The question is important, because it indicates that if the admissions policies have been consistently and fairly applied, students who applied for admissions during the period of affirmative action were always assessed as individuals, never “solely” on the basis of race.

If, as the Gates statement stresses, legacy criteria only resulted in the admission of students who were qualified in an overall sense, then isn’t the same thing true of affirmative action?

But if the same thing is true of affirmative action that was true of legacy admissions, why was it necessary to abolish affirmative action in order to assure that applicants would be assessed individually?

[The above was published as Letter to the Editor in the Bryan Daily Eagle, Jan. 13; and with some helpful edits in the Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 15, 2004]

TEXAS EDUCATION STILL NEEDS TO BE DESEGREGATED

Dear Editor,

With all the helpful coverage and activism that has already emerged in response to the Texas A&M decision to rescind affirmative action in admissions, there is still one crucial fact which has not been reported: Texas higher education is still under federal supervision for desegregation.

Perhaps everyone is a little embarrassed by this fact, so people are a little reluctant to mention it publicly, but Texas has agreed to four successive “Texas Plans” with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The first Texas plan officially began in 1983. The fourth Texas plan was offered by Gov. George W. Bush in the summer of 2000, and it will continue for several more years.

In fact, Texas A&M adopted affirmative action on Dec. 5, 1980, in order to show that the university could be counted on to act as a trustworthy partner in “good faith” during the upcoming years of desegregation. Affirmative action, therefore, is the university’s way of saying, you can depend on us to take responsibility for our own desegregation.

The crucial context of desegregation changes everything about the importance of the Texas A&M decision, so it should be reported and discussed, not evaded.

[Austin Chronicle, Jan. 15, 2004]

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