UVA Needs More Transparency on Affirmative Action

The University of Virginia is boasting again about how well it does by its black students. This is an annual event and some of the boasting has merit. As the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education pointed out last June, U.Va. “consistently posts the highest black student graduation rate of any state-operated university in the country.”

The University is touting findings that “the percentage of black students with at least a 3.0 grade-point average at U.Va. rose from 37.4 percent in 2009 to 51.9 percent in 2014. In addition, 30.2 percent of students who identified as ‘black’ in the class of 2012 graduated with high honors (above a 3.4 GPA), far above the 17.3 percent rate five years earlier.”

Without comparable information about the grades of other groups, including where those grades were earned (do more Asians at U.Va. major in the STEM fields, more blacks in education?), it is impossible to know whether these numbers reflect real gains in black student performance or simple grade inflation. Black students also benefit from tutoring and faculty-student mentoring. There is no comparable racially targeted support for Asians or whites, or economically disadvantaged students of whatever hue. There is, however, one “Program Coordinator” for “Hispanic/Latino, Native American, And Middle Eastern Student Services.” She has one office hour a week in her office and half an hour in a library Cafe.

For some reason (has the university eased up on its heavy preferences in admissions?) the number of black students at U.Va. has been dwindling:1366 black undergraduates in 1991, 1199 in 2008,  946 in 2012.,  and only 894 blacks (6% of 14,898 undergraduates) in 2013-2014.

The University, like all selective institutions that award admission preference based on race, routinely refuses to release data that might reveal the degree of racial preference it employs. That’s too bad, because it would be highly useful to be able to correlate entering SAT scores by race with subsequent GPA and graduation performance, but the University does not release SAT scores by race.

Also like all other selective, race-preference-granting institutions, the University blithely maintains, as Carol Wood, U.Va. spokesperson stated in 2004 and many times subsequently, race is but “one of many factors” considered in admission.

If race was only “one of many factors,” it was a mighty weighty factor indeed, a conclusion powerfully confirmed by several detailed analyses of U.Va. admissions conducted over the years by the Center for Equal Opportunity. A detailed 2004 CEO analysis of U.Va. admissions conducted by David Armor, Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, also found heavy racial weighting

If U.Va. has recently ceased placing so much admissions weight on that “one among many factors,” it should release the data in its possession confirming its current practice. Indeed, all racial data collected by public institutions should be made available to the public. Refusing to release that data simply fuels reasonable suspicion that race remains a most weighty factor.


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