The University of Colorado mistakenly has been listed among the schools that have filed briefs in support of the University of Texas's undergraduate admissions policy in a high-profile affirmative action case that will be heard by the Supreme Court next week, CU officials said Thursday.
CU has not taken a formal position on the case, according to university officials. The case -- Fisher v. University of Texas -- challenges the Austin campus's consideration of race as a factor in admitting students.
CU does have a connection to the much-watched case, though.
Law Professor Melissa Hart said Thursday that she authored a brief in the Fisher case on behalf of Latino students in Texas. Hart in 2008 ran the counter-campaign against a Colorado ballot initiative that sought to ban affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring.
The Texas affirmative action case originally was brought four years ago by a white student, Abigail Fisher, whose attorneys argue was racially discriminated against by the school when she was denied admissions.
If the high court overrules Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that race could play a limited role in the admissions policies of universities, affirmative action policies in admissions at U.S. universities could come to an end.
CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue said university officials were surprised to see the Boulder campus listed among the institutions that had filed amicus, or "friend of the court," briefs in support of the University of Texas' policy.
McConnellogue said that because CU is a member of the American Council on Education, campus officials were asked via e-mail whether the university wanted to be a part of the amicus brief. CU never provided a statement of interest because officials didn't have enough time to gather input from the Board of Regents, McConnellogue said.
"It was a 24-hour turnaround and we knew it would have to be an issue the board would have to weigh in on and we knew we wouldn't be able to meet the timeline," he said.
McConnellogue said the university plans to take "corrective action."
Oral arguments next week
CU's Board of Regents must weigh in on whether the university should file briefs of support in high-profile cases. For example, the regents held a special meeting in July when they were asked to get involved in the Lobato v. Colorado case, in which a judge last year struck down Colorado's K-12 school funding system and called it "irrational and inadequate."
In the affirmative action case, dozens of colleges and universities that had filed friend-of-the court briefs and officials from those schools say that their admissions policies, which in part considers race, help achieve a diverse campus. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Wednesday.
Even if the Republican-controlled Board of Regents were to weigh in on the affirmative action case going before the Supreme Court, it's possible the regents would vote against supporting the admissions policy in Texas.
In 2008, Colorado voters -- by a razor-thin margin -- decided to keep affirmative-action programs intact when they voted down Amendment 46.
The measure sought to make it illegal to consider race or gender in college admissions and government hiring. At the time, Republican Regent Steve Bosley gave $400 to the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative Committee, the group behind Amendment 46.
Race not 'significant factor' at CU
CU-Boulder's admissions office has a set of primary factors it reviews when considering a student's admission, and those include grade-point averages, test scores and the level and rigor of courses taken during high school, explained Kevin MacLennan, director of admissions. Race is among a set of several secondary factors that may be considered, he said.
Ultimately, MacLennan said, the admissions office wants to make sure that admitted students will be able to excel at CU and graduate.
"It's not ethically responsible to ever admit a student who you don't think can be academically successful," he said.
Professor Hart said that most colleges, including CU, have holistic evaluation processes where race is considered among several other factors. If the Supreme Court were to rule that the consideration of race is unconstitutional, CU would have to change its admissions policy.
"At a school like CU, though, race isn't a very significant factor in admissions," Hart said. "It will be a larger change for more elite schools, like Harvard and Stanford, were there's more significant preference for racial diversity."
Because of the 2008 ballot initiative, Hart said, CU is ahead of the curve should a legal change occur. It's possible if colleges could no longer use race in admissions decisions, they would place an emphasis on socio-economic status.
"Affirmative action has been a contentious issue since it was first introduced as a tool for increasing opportunity," Hart said. "I think if schools can't consider race at all then they'll want to decide what they can do in lieu of considering race to make sure they still have diversity."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or email@example.com.