A&M Buries Taskforce Findings

Texas A&M President Buries
Summer Taskforce Findings:

Specially

Appointed Committee
Makes ‘Strong’ Recommendations
For Race in Admissions, but

Gates Dismisses “Diversity Domain”
And Fails to Release Findings
for Public

Discussion

By Greg Moses
Texas Civil Rights

Review
https://texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnuke

Three months before Texas A&M

University President
Robert Gates announced his decision to exclude
consideration of race in

admissions, his own specially
appointed taskforce strongly recommended that race
should be

included. According to documents recently divulged in an open
records request, the president’s

taskforce on Aug. 29,
2003, recommended a “three domain” analysis for
admissions: “These domains

consider potential for the
individual’s success in academics, leadership and
citizenship, and

commitment to diversity.”

Gates adopted the first two domains, “academics,
leadership

and citizenship,” but he overruled his own
taskforce on the question of “commitment

to
diversity.” It is not yet clear who else besides the
president was given an opportunity to

review and
discuss the taskforce report. Findings of the report
are not mentioned in materials

provided to Regents, in minutes of the Faculty Senate, or in discussions
reported in the student

newspaper.

“I valued the recommendations of the task force
appointed to consider

revising admissions and related
policies,” said Gates Monday in an email statement
solicited for

this story. “There was open and
prolonged debate about the explicit use of race as a
factor in

admissions, and I carefully weighed all of
them. After much thought, I decided that, for

Texas
A&M University, diversity would be best accomplished
by basing admissions decisions on

individual qualities
— potential and merit — while accompanying such
assessments with an

aggressive outreach effort to
attract more minority students.”

Findings of the report

remained undisclosed and out of
reach from public debate after Gates publicly promised to expand the

university’s diversity policies
following the Supreme Court’s Grutter ruling, which
vindicated

affirmative action in June, 2003.

Gates set the tone of public expectations on June

27,
for example, when he posted a statement on the
internet that promised to explore

“additional
opportunities” made available by Grutter. In the June
statement he calls attention

to the fact that, “I made
greater diversity one of the top four priorities on
which we would

focus our efforts during my time as
president.”

“Texas A&M University was the first

university in the
state to appoint a cabinet-level official responsible
for increasing

diversity,” said Gates in his email
statement Monday. “Also, to the best of my knowledge, Texas A&M

is the only university in the state subsequent to the Michigan decision to adopt new admissions

requirements that create more opportunities for minorities. Be assured that I strongly believe that we

are doing just that — creating more opportunities for minorities.”

As one faculty

source reported via email, “many of us
here THOUGHT the President was going to use race

in
admissions because his positions until that moment
(December) indicated he was leaning in

that
direction.” Professor of Sociology Eduardo
Bonilla-Silva says that many “minority” faculty

did
not find out about the taskforce report until after
the Regents announced the so-called race

-neutral
policy in December.

Another faculty source who was active in the

Faculty
Senate debate said he is still not aware of the
taskforce findings.

“President Gates met with concerned minority and
majority faculty AFTER he made his decision,

a
strategy that suggests he was not too concerned about having us on board,” writes Prof. Bonilla-

Silva. “Had he thought we were central to his diversity efforts, we would have been consulted in some

way.”

A cover memo to Gates from the taskforce chair clearly shows that, during the

summer of 2003, Gates had already formulated a position in opposition to
affirmative action. “Had

we suspected that, we would
have been on the offensive from August onward!” writes Prof. Bonilla-

Silva.

The Aug. 29 cover memo to Gates, written by taskforce chair, Associate Provost

and Dean of Faculties Karan Watson, says, “the taskforce is well aware of your concerns that the root

problems concerning low diversity at Texas A&M University lie in the areas of ‘who applies’ and ‘who

accepts admissions’ to a greater extent than any problem created by our current decision process for

admission.” Watson’s cover memo, however, “strongly” recommends adoption of diversity-based

admissions.

“Even if our decision process before was not the
greater problem, and

with full acknowledgment that any change at this point in the process may be something of a lightning

rod for strong criticism and
mis-characterization, changing nothing is also a
negative message to

many of the people with whom we need to communicate our true intent and nature as a University,” wrote

Watson.

The taskforce also recommended secondary consideration
of legacy status as

part of a “University Mission
Factor.” Gates abolished consideration of legacy
status in

January, after Texas officials and civil
rights organizations criticized the university

for
considering legacy without race. The taskforce report
demonstrates that race and legacy

policies were both
presented to the president before the Fall term began.

In the body

of the report, the taskforce spends a full
page of single-space type citing existing

statements
and commitments to diversity already adopted by the
university, including “Imperative

Six: Diversify and
Globalize the A&M Community” from the “Vision 2020”
strategic plan assembled

by the campus community.

In the language of the taskforce report, the

diversity
domain in admissions would look for, “Students who
have demonstrated a commitment to

the broader
understanding, deeper respect and stronger cooperation
among diverse cultures, and

individuals, or will help
our educational environment in developing these
commitments.”

The diversity domain would be evaluated in two
“dimensions.” First, a student’s

experiences and
commitments, including veteran status, living abroad,
second-language

proficiency, or migrant status.
Second, a student’s capabilities and characteristics,
including

visible minorities such as, “American
Indian, Alaskan Native, African-American, Black,

Asian
American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, religious
commitment that is reflected in dress,

visible
disability, men in historically female disciplines,
women in historically male

disciplines, and visible
international applicants.” In each dimension
applicants would be rated

on a scale from Above
Average to Weak.

The taskforce document argues that the

inclusion of
visibly diverse students would help other students,
“learn to avoid stereotyping.”

“Currently,” says the taskforce report, “the groups
listed above often report the

sense that they are
treated differently, often in demeaning or hostile
ways, in courses and other

activities on campus. We
fully acknowledge that individuals from each of these
groups do not

represent a singular viewpoint,
background or commitment to diversity, but that is

the
educational point of having a diverse set of these
people, who often get cast into negative

or demeaning
stereotypes, present on campus.”

The taskforce report then calls for

annual and
bi-annual review of diversity policies.

“While I did not expect all

members of the campus

community to agree with my decision, I am encouraged
by the amount of

support this new policy has
received,” continued Gates in
his email statement.
“Because of their

loyalty to this university, many who
did not support my decision are nevertheless

working
passionately to promote the university’s diversity
goals. This serves as evidence of

the strong sense of
community that permeates this institution.”

The president’s

office will be a co-sponsor for a
planned Diversity Rally on Wednesday at the College
Station

campus. The primary sponsor of the rally,
Faculty Committed to an Inclusive Campus, will

be
speaking in favor of affirmative action in admissions.
The Texas A&M Student Senate has

announced that it
will break away from the Diversity rally to hold a
separate “Rally for Merit”

at the same time. The
student representatives do not want to be affiliated
with any groups

favoring the consideration of race in
admissions.

Today, it is difficult to say how

public debate might
have been affected if findings of the 2003 Task Force
on Admissions had been

released. The only document to
seriously address the question of diversity in
admissions at

Texas A&M University argued “strongly”
in favor of “narrowly tailored” considerations

of
race.

Although Gates says he gave the issue a lot of
thought, no document has

yet been found which makes
the studied case for the eventual adoption of
so-called race-neutral

admissions.

Notes:

The Texas Civil Rights Review will post the

complete
email from Gates along with copies of the report from
the Task Force on Diversity.

Please check the website
for updates at:

https://texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnuke

Special thanks to Associate Editor Tony Gallucci for
his help in preparing this

story.

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