Texas A&M Hispanic Network’s Response
Colonel (retired) Robert F. Gonzales
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
Class of ’81
Texas A&M Hispanic Network’s Response
Colonel (retired) Robert F. Gonzales
April 22, 2004
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
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.
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
ersonal merit, meaning personal achievement, merit, and leadership potential.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
around you. You have us and our Network! And that’s the other reason why we are here
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.
resources on the Hispanic Network Summit
PDF Agenda posted at TAMU
The Batt: Hispanic Summit Praises
The Eagle: Group Asks
Aggie Daily: Gates