The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights found that the University did not discriminate against Asians in its admission process, following two complaints filed by applicants.
The finding was announced in a report that came in the form of a letter addressed to University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83.
“OCR initiated this review under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the report reads. “OCR determined thatthere was insufficient evidence to substantiate that the University violated Title VI.”
The report further noted that the University’s practices are in compliance with Supreme Court rulings in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.In the former case, the University of Michigan said it considered race when making admissions decisions in order to increase diversity, but the court ruled that such a practice violated the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the court permitted the University of Michigan Law School to continue evaluating applicants’ race within the context of individualized assessments.
According to the report, in August 2006, a complaint was filed against the University by an applicant of Chinese descent who alleged that the University had discriminated against him on the bases of race and national origin. In August 2011, a second complaint was filed by parents of an applicant of Indian descent who made similar claims. The latter withdrew their petition in February 2012.
Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye noted that the decision reinforced the University’s constitutional validity when it comes to using race as a factor.
“Our admission process is done in an individualistic and holistic way,” said Rapelye."We read files individually, and we are valuing all kinds of diversity."
She noted that diversity has a very wide definition that includes racial and socioeconomic backgrounds as well as diversity of talents.
“The decision reaffirms that in a holistic admission process, in order to achieve a diverse class, race can be used as one of many, many factors,” Rapelye added.
Nevertheless, Rapelye explained that the University’s current admission procedure does not use a score system that awards points based on an applicant’s contributions to racial diversity.
“There has never been a formula or something mechanistic that we do,” Rapelye said.
According to the OCR report, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of admits of Asian descentin the last eight years, rising from 14.2 percent of the Class of 2007 to 25.4 percent of the Class of 2014, a trend inconsistent with institutions that utilize diversity quotas. The report further concluded that there is no evidence of “patently unconstitutional” racial quotas or gender-balancing by the university.
The report further found that the University sometimes “considered race and national origin as a ‘plus’ for an Asian applicant.” For example, an applicant who coped with “green card trouble” and whose parents have “limited English proficiency,” according to her reader card, was ultimately admitted. In contrast, an American Indian who received the comment “Aren’t many Native Americans in the country w/ SAT scores like this” was not admitted.
In addition, the report found no correlation between the applicant’s nationality and admission rate. The report cited that for the Class of 2010, 8.9 percent of applicants from Hong Kong were admitted, and 7.5 percent of applicants from China were admitted. Meanwhile, applicants from Nigeria were admitted at a rate of 1 percent, and applicants from Bulgaria were admitted at a rate of 4 percent.
In the 529 reviewed application files, OCR found cases of isolated assumption about the cultures and education systems of other countries. For example, OCR noted that some alumni interviewers or admission officers made comments associated with Asian stereotypes. However, similar comments were made for other ethnicities.
Rapelye further explained that because of the University’s selectivity, her office has received many strong responses in the past from those not at peace with admission decisions.
“Every April, we have many more disappointed students and families than we have happy ones,” she said. "We answer many phone calls, letters and emails from those who are disappointed to try to help them understand that this is not a decision about the student’s self-worth"