The practice of affirmative action has been controversial at universities throughout the country, including TCU, where Ray Brown, dean of admissions, said taking race into consideration in admissions decisions is standard policy.Brown said since he arrived at TCU in 2000, the university has taken race and ethnicity into account in admissions, despite the Hopwood decision, a court case that essentially outlawed affirmative action in Texas universities.
“Does TCU practice affirmative action?” Brown said. “You bet we do.”
Since 1996, public universities in Texas have been restricted in using race and ethnicity to help admissions or financial aid award decisions because of the Hopwood case. TCU’s restrictions fall into the financial aid category. Because TCU accepts federal funding for some financial aid, it must comply with the same laws as public universities where financial aid is concerned.
In the Hopwood case, four students sued the University of Texas Law School for admitting what they felt were less qualified students because of their race, while rejecting qualified white students.
TCU was forced to work under many constraints of the Hopwood decision after the court ruled that race and ethnicity could not be considered, said Mike Scott, director of financial aid.
TCU continued to, at least partly, consider race in admissions during this time because of the ambiguity of the Hopwood decision, Brown said.
“Hopwood was so gray,” Brown said. “We felt that it was sufficiently gray to continue operating the way we had been.”
Brown said this meant taking race and ethnicity into account, like anything else in admissions decisions, but not assigning it a certain weight or point value.
In 2003, an affirmative action case involving the University of Michigan made its way to the Supreme Court, where the court ruled race could be used in determining admissions decisions, as long as it was not assigned particular weight. In light of this, Texas universities have begun letting race and ethnicity creep back into admissions decisions.
Senior early childhood education major Erin Sawyer said she thinks it’s important that race be taken into consideration.
“It’s important that people from other racial backgrounds be given the opportunity for higher education,” Sawyer said.
For the past two years, Scott said, TCU has had the chance to explore race further in admissions and financial aid decisions.
Brown said this year’s freshman class is the most diverse in TCU’s history. Minority enrollment at TCU is at 15.5 percent.
Although Brown said the admissions office felt comfortable looking at race after the Hopwood decision, Scott said the financial aid office did not take race or ethnicity into consideration when making award decisions until 2003.
After the Michigan case essentially overturned Hopwood, Scott said, the new opportunity to study aid awards was opened.
“We’re looking into what we do and how we do it ethically and fairly,” Scott said.