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COURTSIDE

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BC admission and the Michigan rulings

While recent Supreme Court decisions in two affirmative action cases have left college admission offices from Massachusetts to California scrambling to adjust to an altered landscape, the rulings will not affect Boston College because BC's admission policy is already "in compliance with the letter and spirit of the decisions," says John L. Mahoney, Jr., director of undergraduate admission.

The two high court cases scrutinized the use of race as a criterion in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Michigan. In decisions announced on June 23, the court found that colleges could consider an applicant's race, but only as part of a "truly individualized," holistic evaluation process. By contrast, the court invalidated policies where race is the decisive factor and where "mechanical" admission policies assign a numerical weight to an applicant's race. Schools like Michigan and the University of Massachusetts, which have relied on such numerical scoring systems, will have to shift to a more complex—and likely more costly—admission process if they want to continue using race as a factor.

In undergraduate admissions, BC considers race as one of many factors, alongside academic preparation, a record of leadership in extracurricular activities, family ties to the University, and special gifts in areas such as athletics and the arts. "No particular value is assigned to the variables," says Mahoney. "We look at the whole picture and make a professional judgment." Current undergraduate enrollment is approximately 10 percent Asian, 8 percent Latino, and 6 percent African-American. The law school is approximately 24 percent AHANA; the Lynch School of Education's graduate programs are 13.5 percent.

Acccording to Academic Vice President Jack Neuhauser, affirmative action at BC's graduate and professional schools mainly takes the form of outreach and recruitment, though race is also given some weight in admissions as "one of the factors added in." But Neuhauser emphasizes that, like the undergraduate admission office, the graduate and professional schools use a non-mechanical process. "We do not have anything like a numeric quota," he says. "We obviously try hard to recruit minority students, with varying degrees of success, but we do it as much for our own benefit as for theirs. We simply want a student body that represents this country, and to some extent goes beyond the borders of this country, because it's better for our students."

The same holds true at the undergraduate level, according to Mahoney. In addition, he says, taking race and economic status into account keeps faith with BC's founding mission of educating the "truly marginalized and disenfranchised"—in the 1860s, the sons of Irish Catholic immigrants.

David Reich

 

David Reich is a freelance writer in Boston.

 

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