WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, gathered higher education officials, admissions officers, educators and legal experts today for a roundtable discussion on new research that will shed light on permissible diversity policies as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
The recent Fisher decision recognized that universities have a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity in higher education, but required them to consider race-neutral options before employing race-based policies. The roundtable allowed leading scholars to explore some of those race-neutral alternatives, such as income, socioeconomic status, percent plans, outreach and support programs.
"This research is the first of its kind since the Supreme Court's ruling and is important to institutions that are developing, implementing and defending diversity plans," says Michael Nettles, ETS Senior Vice President. "The finalized research papers discussed during today's roundtable will be published in the near future to provide guidance to universities and colleges seeking to adhere to best practices for assuring diverse student populations on their campuses."
"The Supreme Court's decision in the Fisher case reaffirmed the educational value of diverse campuses but left the judgment about the necessity of race-conscious policies to achieve diversity with the federal courts if a campus is challenged. I am convinced that colleges can successfully defend their plans if they are aware of research on the limited value of alternatives and can document why they would not work locally. This research is a step in that process." says Gary Orfield, Distinguished Professor and Co-Director, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
Scholars who presented new research at the roundtable included:
- Professor Sean Reardon of Stanford University who reviewed research on the effects of using poverty or socio-economic status in place of race in diversity policies.
- Professor Catherine Horn of the University of Houston and Professor Stella Flores of Vanderbilt University who have conducted extensive research in the past on diversity and provided a new synthesis of research on percent plans, the issue that was considered in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.
- William Kidder, Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor, University of California, Riverside and Patricia Gándara, Research Professor and co-Director, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, who assessed the ability of the UC outreach and support programs initiated in the aftermath of the 1996 affirmative action ban to address the issue.
- Professor Mark Long of the University of Washington has examined a variety of data that universities could collect from students and explored the degree to which the data could be used to foster diversity, as well as the relative practicality of such methods compared to affirmative action.
Both opponents and proponents of affirmative action claimed victory following the Supreme Court's 7-1 ruling that Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, be sent back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. Defenders of the practice claimed that since the Supreme Court did not reverse current policies, any future court ruling will be in their favor. Abigail Fisher, the 23-year-old woman at the heart of the lawsuit, and her lawyer also viewed the ruling as a positive outcome because it sets the stage for the lower court to reject its original ruling. Fisher originally filed a complaint against the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 claiming that she was denied admission to the university because she was White.
"Regardless of how the lower court rules, colleges and universities may still end up in court defending their admissions practices," adds Nettles. "Hopefully, the research discussed today will offer alternatives allowing admissions officers to say, `Yes, race is a part of the process, but here are other factors we consider as well.'"
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® test and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. www.ets.org
About the Civil Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by former Harvard professors Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley Jr., the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles is now co-directed by Orfield and Patricia Gándara, professors at UCLA. Its mission is to create a new generation of research in social science and law on the critical issues of civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States. It has commissioned more than 400 studies, published 14 books and issued numerous reports from authors at universities and research centers across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding affirmative action, and in Justice Breyer's dissent (joined by three other justices) to its 2007 Parents Involved in Community Schools decision, cited the Civil Rights Project's research.
SOURCE Educational Testing Service