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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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October 06, 2005

Those "holistic" admissions

Our story on the University of Washington’s new admission plan, here, raised the suspicion of Tim Eyman. He was the original sponsor of Initiative 200, which banned racial preferences in public-school admissions. He interprets the UW’s move as a way to get around I-200, and he may be right.

Why? Well, first off, the UW has gone to Olympia and testified in favor of a bill that would have suspended I-200, as I described in an earlier column here. It has asked the Legislature for permission to use preferences. Secondly, in the Times story, it says, “The shift was prompted in part by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that universities could consider race or ethnicity as a factor in a comprehensive admission review, but could not award points for it in any admission formula.”

The court ruling was Grutter v. Bollinger, here. It allowed a version of weak, undefined affirmative action which was done (in Justice O’Connor’s words) in a “highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file.” The UW promises to review its cases holistically to bring it in line with this ruling.

The UW admits it cannot use race as a factor, because under I-200, that is the law in Washington. That is, the U.S. Supreme Court says Washington can use race as a factor if it wants to, but Washington has chosen not to. But under the “holistic” approach, how would you know? There are no points. There is no grid. There are test scores and grades, but there are other, non-quanfitiable factors. So how would you know whether there was a racial preference or some other unquantifiable x factor?

About the only way would be to look at whether the racial percentages change when the new system is adopted. It is not proof, but it is a suggestion.

My guess is that Eyman is correct, and that sneaking in race is part of (or all of) the motivation here.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at October 6, 2005 04:46 PM



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