¿Que vamos hacer ahora? A&M Hispanic Network Address

VERSION 17,
Texas A&M Hispanic Network’s Response
by

Colonel (retired) Robert F. Gonzales
Class 1968
April 22,

2004

____________

Note: This important document (see “read

more” below) is posted despite the objections of the author, who requested that it not be displayed

beyond “the Aggie family.” I have taken some time to consider the author’s request. In the end,

with great respect for the author and the Texas A&M Hispanic Network, I have decided to post the

document for public viewing. Texas A&M University does not belong to the Aggie family. It is a

publicly funded university and its policies are a matter of public concern. While I respect the

general rule to “not talk out of school” regarding matters that are more properly discretionary, the

subject of the following address concerns a widely publicized matter of public policy, and the remarks

were delivered before a large crowd that included reporters (see links below). While I regret the

author’s decision to not grant his permission, I have concluded that, as a matter of information

ethics, that the document should be part of the public record. Furthermore, I hope that over time, the

author and others will come to respect the principles and criteria upon which I have based my decision.

While reluctance to share this document is understandable from an “Aggie family” point of view, in

the end I think larger considerations prevail. It is quite a remarkable

speech.

Respectfully,
Greg Moses
Editor
Class of ’81

____________
VERSION 17
Texas A&M Hispanic Network’s Response
by

Colonel (retired) Robert F. Gonzales
Class 1968
April 22, 2004

Howdy!

En la vida, es importante estar presente. In life, it is important to show up. Thank you for

taking the time from your very busy schedules to show up today.
I have been asked to give the Texas

A&M Hispanic Network response to the addresses given this morning by President Gates and Doctor

Anderson. I am privileged to be your spokesperson.

Whoever stood here representing

the Network probably would feel like the ham in a ham sandwich, feeling divided loyalties between the

school we love so much and whose policies we want to support, and the direction our school has chosen

not to take concerning the future of our heritage at this school. With this dichotomy in mind, and

understanding that at times I will use the words “race” and “ethnicity” interchangeably, let me

continue with what needs to be said.

Before I deliver my prepared remarks, I think I

first must respond to something that I did not anticipate I would hear this morning. President Gates

read e-mails for three young Hispanic A&M graduates who support his position not to consider race in

Texas A&M’s admissions policy. Their primary concern is the unfavorable perception other students

would have of Hispanics whose ethnicity was taken into consideration for admissions into A&M. Although

their views are valid and should be heard, there’s another side to this coin and I need to state it in

order to give balance to this matter. I will do so using my own personal

experience.

While I was a student at A&M, I became active in student activities at the

Memorial Student Center. Mr. J. Wayne Stark was the Director of the MSC and he was the first person

who put the idea of becoming a lawyer into my head. I pursued this course and decided I wanted to

attend the University of Texas Law School. I took the LSAT, but I did not do very well. Consequently,

in addition to the University of Texas, I applied to three other law schools in the State. Before

graduation day, I received letters of acceptance to the other three law schools, but I had not heard

from the University of Texas. I drove to Austin to find out the status of my application. The lady in

the Admissions Office confirmed my LSAT score had prevented me from being automatically accepted, but

my name was on the waiting list. She explained there was still a chance I could be accepted, but I

would have to wait a few more weeks until they heard back from all of the automatic-admits on whether

they planned to enroll or not, to see how many seats would remain unfilled and thus available to those

of us on the waiting list. Then she told me the law school was starting a new affirmative action

program and, because I was a Mexican-American, I may have a better chance than others on the waiting

list for any available seats.

I explained what I had been told to my parents and two of

my uncles from the Classes of ’41 and ’50. Should I accept an offer from one of the three law schools

based on “merit” or should I wait on T.U. and possibly get admitted under its affirmative action

program. One of my uncles asked me, “Do you have any idea how many Mexicans are students at T.U.’s law

school?” I had no idea. He speculated there were less than ten. Then he said, “T.U. is the best law

school in the State. I don’t care if you get in the front door, the side door, or the backdoor. If

T.U. accepts you, you go there!” I received my acceptance letter to T.U. a couple of weeks later and I

enrolled in September 1968 along with twelve other Hispanics in a class of 450.

I

wondered whether I had been admitted as an alternate on “merit” or under affirmative action, so I

stopped by the Admissions Office one day to ask. I saw a different lady than the one I had seen before

and she responding by giving me this advice, “Don’t worry about how you got in. You need to

concentrate on staying in and graduating.”

Only one student ever asked me how I got into

law school. His name was John and John was Anglo. Therefore, we can assume that John got into law

school solely on “merit.” When I returned for my second year of law school, John was not around. When

I asked what happened to John, I was told, “John flunked out!”

If I got into law

school under affirmative action, I soon learned that none of the professors had an affirmative action

policy when he came to passing out grades and Dean Page Keeton surely did not have an affirmative

action policy when he passed out diplomas.

I have practiced law for thirty-three years

and during that time I have been asked frequently, “What law school did you graduate from?” Nobody has

ever asked, “How did you get into law school?”
I have made my income based on my law degree from

T.U. When I mail in checks to the University of Texas Law School Foundation, and the Texas A&M

University Foundation, and the Association of Former Students, and the 12th man Foundation, none of

them ask, “How did you get into law school?” What’s important to them is that I graduated and that I’m

sending them a check every year. . . . and they ask if I can send more.

This is my

adlib response to those three e-mails. Now, let me move on to my prepared response.

President Gates, distinguished members of the Texas legislature, Vice-President

Anderson, members of the faculty and administration, members of the Texas A&M Hispanic Network,

students, former students, and friends.

Texas A&M is a State public university, yet it

does not reflect the face of the State of Texas. There is a racial and ethnic imbalance on the campus

at Texas A&M!

Earlier this morning, we heard President Gates say that although he

is determined to correct this imbalance, he has decided not to use the race or ethnicity of an

applicant as a factor in the admissions process in order to achieve greater diversity at A&M. Instead,

he believes it is in the best interest of A&M to continue a policy based solely on each applicant’s

p
ersonal merit, meaning personal achievement, merit, and leadership potential.

Before

I give the Texas A&M Hispanic Network’s official positio
n to this decision, I need to take us back to

March 18, 1996. This was the day the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided the

case of Cheryl Hopwood v. the University of Texas Law School. This panel said that any consideration

of race in order to achieve a diversified student body at a public university was not a “compelling

governmental interest” under the Fourteenth Amendment and, therefore, any attempt by a public

university to do so was unconstitutional. This meant that the University of Texas Law School had to

stop considering race, and in the future neither it nor any other public university in Louisiana,

Mississippi, and Texas could consider the race of an applicant as a factor in its admissions

policy.

As a result, the number of Hispanic students enrolling as freshman at A&M went

down from 714 before Hopwood to 607 in 1997 and further down to 570 in 1999. A&M has never recovered,

even with the help of the 10% law. A&M has been unable to enroll 700 or more Hispanic freshman in any

given year since Hopwood.

Eighteen months after Hopwood in October 1997, A&M President

Ray Bowen proposed that A&M strive to be recognized as one of the top ten public universities in the

United States by the year 2020. A task force of 260 prominent Aggies and friends of A&M from both on

and off campus, including our own Hector Gutierrez and Pedro Aguirre, surveyed where A&M stood and what

it needed to do to achieve this lofty goal. This was the foundation for Vision 2020, our road map into

the future. Hundreds of ideas were suggested, discussed, and debated, and when the dust finally

cleared, the group submitted twelve of them to President Bowen. They called these twelve ideas

“Imperatives.”

We cannot help but believe that the Vision 2020 task force of

outstanding individuals each in their own right was completely aware, fully-informed, and cognizant of

the Hopwood decision and the immediate impact it was having on minority enrollment at institutions of

higher learning in the 5th Circuit. Having seen the adverse effects that Hopwood had at A&M in the

fall terms of 1997 and 1998, Vision 2020 deliberately made “Diversity” one of its twelve imperatives,

specifically Imperative #6. In so doing, it stated that “Texas A&M University must attract and nurture

a more ethnically, culturally, and geographically diverse faculty, staff, and student body.” Further,

it went on to say, “affording educational opportunity to all racial and ethnic groups is critical to

the future of Texas.”

The task force then established a fair and reasonable target

that A&M should reach for, in order to achieve meaningful student diversity. That goal was to attain

in each freshman class the same percentage of minority Texas high school graduates who were college-

bound, which for Hispanic students was approximately 29%. So, we can plainly see that three years

after Hopwood said that achieving student diversity in a public university was not a “compelling

governmental interest,” our own internal group of Aggies and friends of A&M said that achieving an

equitable level of student diversity at A&M was an “Imperative.”

If you look up the

word “imperative” in Webster’s dictionary, it will tell you it means “urgent, absolutely necessary, and

compelling!” Imperative #6 of Vision 2020 was a resounding call for educational opportunity for all

minorities in the State of Texas, and it, in essence, rejected Hopwood as the way to do business at

A&M.

On May 28, 1999, the Board of Regents of Texas A&M, which included our own Dionel

E. Aviles, approved all twelve Imperatives of Vision 2020 and in its Approval Resolution charged all

future Regents, Chancellors, Presidents, administration, faculty, staff, students, and former students

to make a personal commitment to its success.

In so doing, our Board of Regents also

implicitly rejected the holding of Hopwood.
Then, on August 1, 2002, we welcomed Dr. Gates as the

22nd President of Texas A&M University. In his State of the University Convocation Address on October

3, 2002, President Gates stated, in part, “My highest priority is to make significant progress toward

achieving the imperatives of Vision 2020.” After consultations throughout the A&M campus community, at

the beginning of 2003, President Gates followed up his October address with an announcement that four

of the twelve imperatives would receive priority over the next several years and one of those four

imperatives was Imperative #6 on Diversity.

Four months later, I was sitting in the

dinner audience of the 50th Class Reunion of the Class of 1953, my father’s class. This was exactly

one year ago this week. Dr. Gates was the guest speaker, and it was my first time to hear him. That

evening he confronted the issue of diversity in the open as no other president at A&M had done before

by saying, “in a State where minorities will soon be the majority . . . . it is simply unacceptable for

Texas A&M’s student body to be 85% white and for our faculty to be 85% white and male.”

However, he did not specifically explain how he was going to improve diversity at A&M.

Keep in mind that for over three years prior to Dr. Gates assuming the position of President, Hispanics

and other minorities had been waiting for A&M to present a concrete plan on how it was going to

implement Imperative #6 and how minority former students like you and me could assist and support this

plan. I immediately wondered what Dr. Gates was going to do to bring about a real change on campus,

especially when Hopwood was still the law of the land.

Because Dr. Gates had also spoken

about the need for groups composed of former students of various ethnicities to form a partnership with

A&M on diversity efforts, a group of approximately fifty Hispanic Aggies met in San Antonio on May 31,

2003, to form the Texas A&M Hispanic Network. We discussed what we could do to ensure A&M was the best

model in the State and Nation to educate and develop Hispanic leaders of the future. We were told that

A&M’s student body was only 8% Hispanic and we all agreed to assist A&M to improve this percentage in

increments of two to three percent each year, until the percentage roughly reflected the proportion of

Hispanics in the population of Texas, which is currently 33%. We were very ambitious, optimistic, and

motivated, because Dr. Gates had energized us to face this daunting task with him.

Then, the Supreme Court spoke on this matter on June 23, 2003 in the two University of Michigan

cases of Barbara Grutter v. Lee Bollinger that involved the admissions policy at its law school and

Jennifer Gratz v. Lee Bollinger that involved the admissions policy at its College of Literature,

Science, and Arts. And what did the Court say? On the first issue of whether student diversity at a

public university is a “compelling governmental interest” or not, six of the nine justices said it was.

When the Supreme Court said this, not only did it overrule Hopwood, it also completely validated the

foresight, wisdom, and efforts of the Vision 2020 Task Force, our Board of Regents, and Dr. Gates.

I need to pause here for a moment to quickly give you an appreciation for the

significance and magnitude of a Supreme Court decision that identifies a governmental purpose as

“compelling” instead of important, legitimate, or substantial. The Supreme Court reserves this term

for only those governmental interests of the absolute very highest order. Essentially, before any

level of the government can discriminate on the basis of race or before it can place a restriction on a

fundamental Constitutional right, the government needs to show the Court that it ha
s a very strong and

good reason to do so. How many times, since 1942 when the Supreme Court started to develop the concept

of “compelling gov
ernmental interest,” has a governmental entity been able to convince the Supreme

Court that its purpose was “compelling?” Would you believe less than twenty times? Thus, student

diversity in a public university is on the same “compelling governmental interest” footing as

prohibiting child pornography, maintaining the Social Security system, preserving the integrity of the

electoral process, and protecting our national security. Do you understand better now what the Supreme

Court is saying to us?

On the critical issue of whether race can be considered as a

factor in a university’s admissions policy in order to improve student diversity, again, six justices

said yes, so long as race is used as a small factor among several admissions factors, in the context of

a highly individual and holistic review of each applicant’s file.

The Court did not

say a public university must consider race in order to achieve student diversity; instead, it said

public universities have the option to do so. Whether to exercise this option or not, the Texas A&M

Hispanic Network and the University each believe they are on solid ground, however, we are not on

common ground.

Although this is a very serious matter, I would like to

compare the Supreme Court’s decision and our situation at A&M to the sport of football. Initially in

the late 1800’s, the ball was advanced by running the ball and you won games by running the ball

effectively. Then, in 1906, the National Rules Committee made the forward pass legal. This change in

the rules did not make passing the ball mandatory; it simply gave colleges the option to use the pass

in order to win. Some schools incorporated the forward pass into its offense, while others continued

to reply on a running game.

A&M has been using a running game when it comes to diversity

and it has resulted in a very unimpressive “winning” percentage. In terms of diversity that percentage

is 85% white and 15% minorities. The University wants to improve on the 15%, but it has decided not to

use race as a factor in admissions; it has decided to stick with the running game and not incorporate

the forward pass.

Dr. Gates is the coach of the team, and he is OUR coach. We are his

assistant coaches. We think we can win more games if we incorporate the forward pass into our offense.

We think we can improve student diversity at A&M by using race in the “review” category of admissions.

Absent race, what admissions factors will be considered under the University’s plan in

the “review” category besides the applicant’s SAT score and class academic ranking? If you take the

admissions factors published in the latest undergraduate catalog, they would include the following

diverse characteristics: parental education level, extracurricular activities, leadership potential,

community service, special talents and awards, work experience, academic association with A&M, and

extenuating circumstances, meaning personal hardships the student had to overcome.

Additionally, the University will require all applicants to submit two essays, one that asks

applicants to “describe a significant setback, challenge, or opportunity in your life and the impact it

has had on you,” and the second one that asks “how will your individual characteristics lead you to

make a contribution to the A&M campus?”

The interesting thing about the University’s

plan is that, arguably, four of the eight admissions factors and both essay topics can have a certain

degree of correlation to race or ethnicity, depending on the contents of the application and who is

evaluating the file. The University apparently believes that the consideration of these eight factors

and two essays will produce the desired increase in the number of Hispanic applicants who enroll at A&M

each year.

The Texas A&M Hispanic Network believes that whether we consider race or

not is a direct reflection on a university’s level of commitment to welcome minorities to its campus

and to realize the educational benefits that can be derived from an ethically diverse student body. We

both want to achieve the same thing; we simply have a difference of opinion on how to do it. Coach

Gates says we can win with a new and improved running game. We say we need to incorporate the forward

pass, and if we do, we will win more games and we will improve our season record more immediately.

Therefore, please understand that our official Network position is that we

respectfully and deeply do not agree with or endorse that part of the decision that excludes the

consideration of race as a modest factor in A&M’s admissions policy. We simply cannot rely on an

improved running game and expect better and immediate results.

Bueno, ¿Que vamos

hacer ahora? Okay, what do we do now?

We discussed several options and all of them were

grounded on two principles. First, and foremost, we are all family. We all wear the ring with thirty

-three stars and our class year on it. Secondly, we are not going to walk away from our school on this

issue. Despite our disagreement, we will always have a partnership with A&M and we will always have

work to do. Of course, our strong preference is to incorporate the forward pass; to use race as a

modest factor in the admissions process, and we will continue to advocate and articulate this position.

We want what’s best for A&M too, and that is to achieve Vision 2020’s Imperative #6 as

soon as possible, by all means possible. If the educational benefits derived from a diverse student

body are truly a national “compelling governmental interest” and a Texas A&M University Imperative,

then we have an obligation and responsibility to use every legal means and any persuasive argument at

our disposal to make it happen! By stating our position, that’s what we have attempted to do

today.

If we are not going to use the forward pass, then we would like to express one

Hope and one Strategy. This is our Hope. If we do not see our record improve after one season, it is

our deep and sincere Hope that the University will seriously consider using the forward pass, using

race as a modest admissions factor. Specifically, this would be at the end of fall semester, 2006.

Any coach should be held accountable for the direction he has chosen to take or not to

take his team. And on this point we are proud of Dr. Gates, because he has publicly stated that he

wants to be held accountable. We believe the test that should be applied, and we think this is a fair

one, is whether the percentage of diversity within A&M’s student body has improved to the same extent

as that at the University of Texas, because we know that the other flagship university in this State is

going to incorporate the forward pass into its offense; they are going to use race as a factor in their

admissions policy.

As Dr. Gates explained this morning, the University’s new plan

includes some significant changes in its admissions policy. We are encouraged that factors which can

reflect the ethnicity and racial makeup of the applicant pool will be considered in the “review”

category. We are pleased that aggressive outreach programs will be implemented in an attempt to get

more minorities to apply and then, once accepted, to enroll. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we

are very satisfied that new and substantial scholarships and financial assistance will be offered to

those in need.

It all sounds great, but we are also aware that this approach is very

similar to the one taken by the University of Michigan, and their efforts never, never yielded the

desired “critical mass” of minority students until it started to consider race
as a factor. But there

was one thing the University of Michigan did not have that Dr. Gates does. Dr. Gates, take a
look

around you. You have us and our Network! And that’s the other reason why we are here

today.

You have given us time to voice our concerns, and we have done so. Now, it is

time to follow one Strategy and that is to work together as partners and as a family to build for the

future. This afternoon, the breakout sessions will be an opportunity for us to continue our dialogue

with our University. How can we improve communications between the administration, staff, and faculty

with the Network? What training do we need from A&M in order to be effective individual recruiters for

A&M? What campus life and leadership opportunities do we need to make A&M a more welcome place for

Hispanics? Your active participation in these discussions is very important to us.

Finally, what’s the bottom line? Dr. Gates stated the bottom line a year ago. “In a

State where minorities will soon be the majority . . . . it is simply unacceptable for Texas A&M’s

student body to be 85% white.” We should not, cannot, and must not be satisfied with a single digit

percentage of Hispanics in the student body at A&M. We all need to work together to achieve the goals

outlined in Imperative #6 of Vision 2020.

Some day there is going to be a Hispanic

governor of Texas. Some day there is going to be a Hispanic United States Senator from Texas. And

someday there may even be a Hispanic President of these United States. I want them to be wearing the

same ring we’re wearing.

Dr. Gates cannot make this happen by himself, Hector

Gutierrez cannot make it happen by himself, and we as a Network cannot make this happen by ourselves,

either. Building for the Future “together” needs to be our watchword. Coming together as we did in

San Antonio last May was a beginning; staying together as we will do all day today is progress; y

trabajando juntos por todo en el futuro nos asegura buen exito, and working together in the future will

bring us success!

Thank you and Gig’em.
More

resources on the Hispanic Network Summit

PDF Agenda posted at TAMU

website

The Batt: Hispanic Summit Praises

The Eagle: Group Asks

Gates

Aggie Daily: Gates

Highlights

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