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San Antonio: Castro, Villareal, Menendez, & LULAC

A&M ‘legacy’ policy seen related to lack of minorities

By Matt Flores
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 01/08/2004 12:00 AM

Citing Texas A&M University’s poor record of attracting minority students, legislators Wednesday

called on the institution to abandon its practice of giving a boost in the admissions process to

children, grandchildren and siblings of alumni. “You can’t close the door on affirmative action and

make birthright an entitlement to admission,” state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a news

conference.

He was joined by state Reps. Mike Villarreal and Jose Menéndez, also San

Antonio Democrats, and members of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Simultaneous news conferences were held in Austin and Houston to denounce Texas A&M’s so-called

“legacy” policy, which has come under growing criticism since the university announced last month it

wouldn’t use race as a factor in its admissions policy.

Wednesday’s move was the

latest among several lawmakers who are pressuring Texas A&M to scrap the legacy policy. State Rep. Lon

Burnam, D-Fort Worth, already has said he intends to file legislation aimed at ending A&M’s legacy

program.

The lawmakers and civil rights activists called on the university to

reconsider its legacy policy, saying it effectively gives preferences to Anglo students at a time when

the school is struggling to diversify.

Last year, Anglos accounted for 82 percent of

A&M’s student population while Hispanics made up 9 percent. African Americans accounted for 2 percent

and Asian Americans accounted for 3 percent.

By comparison, Anglos accounted for 60

percent of the student body at the University of Texas at Austin — the state’s other public flagship

institution — while Hispanics made up 14 percent and African Americans accounted for 3 percent. Asian

Americans made up 17 percent.

“The legacy program at A&M counters the worthy goal of

closing the gaps in Texas institutions,” said Villarreal, a 1992 A&M graduate.

He was

referring to the state’s “Closing the Gaps” initiative to bring about greater parity in college

attendance and graduation rates.

The U.S. Supreme Court last summer cleared the way for

Texas institutions to resume affirmative action practices, and some in the state, including UT-Austin

and Rice University, have since announced plans to revamp their admissions policies to include race

factors.

Texas A&M is the only public university in the state that gives preferences to

applicants who are the grandchildren, children or siblings of A&M graduates.

Although

in some years A&M gives a boost to as many as 2,000 legacy applicants, university data showed the

consideration was the difference in admitting 345 new freshmen in 2003.

Of those

admitted because of the legacy consideration, 312 were Anglo, 27 were Hispanic and six were African

American. Only about 300 African Americans were admitted to the university as a whole in

2003.

“More students were admitted because Mom or Dad went to A&M than the total

number of African Americans admitted,” said Gary Bledsoe, state president of the National Association

for the Advancement of Colored People, who spoke at the news conference in Austin.

“The Texas A&M legacy program is inherently discriminatory toward minorities — and based on

nothing even resembling merit,” Bledsoe added.

Texas A&M officials didn’t respond to

interview requests, but in defending A&M’s position, school officials have said that legacy

considerations don’t guarantee admission and have noted that minority legacies are admitted at about

the same rate as Anglo legacies.

Late Wednesday, A&M President Robert Gates issued this

statement:

“As I indicated several weeks ago when I met with concerned legislators,

the admissions process has been under review and will continue to be evaluated to ensure that it

achieves one of the university’s primary objectives — that of having a student body that is more

representative of the state of Texas.”

And the university’s true problem in

diversifying its student body, officials say, lies with persuading prospective students to enroll, not

in admitting them. Fewer than half of Hispanic and African American students who are admitted to A&M

each year actually enroll.

Instead of concentrating on an affirmative action admissions

policy, Gates has embarked on efforts to award more scholarships to needy, first-generation college

students and to intensify outreach efforts in urban areas. Last summer, the school opened a center in

HemisFair Plaza to facilitate applications for admissions, housing and financial aid.

But Villarreal said he would give the university an “F” thus far in addressing minority

enrollment.

“They may be great efforts, but they are going to be judged on how their

minority numbers improve,” he said. “What really matters is who attends and who eventually walks

across the stage.”

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Ellis, Barrientos, Dukes, Bledsoe, Harrington, & Others Call for Fairness at

Jan. 7, 2004
Press Release
From the

Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis
State Officials, Civil Rights Advocates
Call on

Texas A&M to Correct Admissions Policies

Austin, TX// Senators Rodney Ellis and Gonzalo

Barrientos were joined by State Representative Dawnna Dukes the NAACP, LULAC, MALDEF, and the Texas

Civil Rights project for a press conference on Wednesday focusing attention on the admissions situation

at Texas A&M University. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Texas A&M, while refusing to

take race into consideration as an admission criterion, has the most active legacy admission program in

Texas.

“To continue the Legacy Program at A&M while removing race as a consideration

for admission, in my mind, further erodes the image of this fine institution at a time that it needs to

do more to attract minority students,” said Senator Gonzalo Barrientos.

Similar press

conferences with elected officials and civil rights advocates took place simultaneously in Houston and

San Antonio as well. Participants in the press conferences highlighted the discrepancy in minority vs

Anglo enrollment at Texas A&M as well as the gap in minority vs legacy

enrollment.

“More students were admitted because mom or dad went to A&M, than the total

number of African Americans admitted,” said NAACP President Gary Bledsoe. “The Texas A&M legacy

program is inherently discriminatory towards minorities, and based on nothing even resembling

merit.”

Texas A&M admitted 358 students last year through the legacy program. Of those,

only six were African American and 27 Hispanic.

Legacy admissions programs don’t just

hurt minorities seeking an education,” explained Senator Ellis, “this program is even bad for white

kids whose parents aren’t Aggies.”

All three press conferences in Texas focused on a

single theme: Texas A&M must change its admissions policies if it truly wishes to correct its minority

gap.

“As an alumnus of Texas A&M, I am truly disappointed that the University has

chosen to create an admissions policy that is contradictory to their stated goal of seeking to improve

minority admissions,” said Representative Dawnna Dukes. “Establishing scholarships for first

generation disadvantaged minority students, while giving preference to second and third generation

advantaged students is contradictory to an even-handed policy. An aggressive attempt to recruit

historically disadvantaged applicants is not achieved by giving historically advantaged applicants a

leg up. Such an admission policy cannot possibly increase minority student

enrollment.”

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Our Thesis vs Ayn Rand Institute

The Dec. 15 OpEdge of the Forth Worth Star Telegram, presents our first-week response to the

Texas A&M announcement alongside a very different opinion from the Ayn Rand Institute.

Like every other response to the Texas A&M opinion, the Ayn Rand Institute refuses to

deal with the fact that Texas higher education is under federal supervision for de-

segregation.

Therefore the Ayn Rand Institute can present the following argument:

(1) “integration” is a worthy goal (2) “diversity” is not (3) Texas A&M is correct to abandon

affirmative action as a means to diversity. But what if (4) “de-segregation” was the original intent

of affirmative action at A&M and (5) “de-segregation” has not yet been completed? Then are we not

back to step one above: “integration”? The only thing standing between the Ayn Rand Institute and

the proper conclusion is consideration of a crucial fact: Texas higher education is not yet integrated.

Therefore, integration is the worthy reason why affirmative action should be continued.

The Ayn Rand Institute, like all other eyes of Texas, is looking chiefly at the

framework of “diversity” when the framework of “de-segregation” is more relevant. But the eyes of

Texas have been deliberately led in the direction of “diversity” by the magicians who crafted the

vanishing of affirmative action at Texas A&M.

Curiously enough, the much-watched debate

between campus president Gates and campus conservatives in the weeks leading up to the president’s

announcement served to solifiy an impression that “diversity” was the relevant framework for civil

rights policy at Texas A&M.

Let history reflect that the state’s initial reaction to

the Gates announcement was completely swept into the corner of diversity. No discussion of the

state’s obligations to de-segregation has yet taken place.

See the OpEdge page here.