Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard two cases on affirmative action, a group of Ivy League student government officers unanimously endorsed the use of race in university admissions at a meeting this weekend.
Members of the Ivy Council — a group comprised of Ivy League student government officials from every Ivy League university except Harvard — passed a resolution 28-0 supporting the use of race in college admissions decisions. Each college council made or endorsed an official statement on the issue before representatives gathered at the meeting, one Council delegate said. The Ivy Council’s endorsement of race-conscious admissions echoes widespread support for affirmative action policies expressed by university administrators nationwide.
The two cases before the Supreme Court, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, represent the first time since 1978 that the Court has considered the role of race in university admissions. In the cases, former applicants argue that they were denied admission to the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Law School in part because they are white.
Edward Pritchett ’05, one of Yale’s Ivy Council representatives, said the resolution’s purpose is twofoldÊ– it serves as “another voice” on the issue and will be sent to the council of Ivy League presidents. He said it is the Ivy Council’s responsibility to discuss issues that affect the lives of undergraduates.
“At least people will know another body has come together in support of affirmative action,” Pritchett said. “It was important for us to take a stance — If we didn’t take a stance, we wouldn’t have been doing our jobs.”
Pritchett said the Council decided to make a general statement supporting affirmative action, as opposed to specifically endorsing the University of Michigan’s specific admissions policies. Yale and other university officials have expressed a similar position in briefs filed with the Supreme Court.
“The Ivy Council agreed that to undergraduate admissions, race is an important factor in making a diverse student body,” Pritchett said. “And then we went on to say we support affirmative action in creating a diverse student body.”
Pritchett said there was extensive debate about the topic. At first, there was “definitely not mutual agreement” about the strength and nature of the statement, he said. Eventually, all 28 student delegates agreed on the resolution.
Yale President Richard Levin said he is glad to hear that student governments, like university presidents, value the use of affirmative action in college admissions.
“In a sense, we’re all completely in accord with the principle that we need to support affirmative action,” Levin said.
Princeton junior Bryan Hiscox, who serves as the university’s head delegate to the Ivy Council, said the majority of Princeton’s student government leaders agreed that they needed to appeal to the student body before passing a resolution. He said 2,125 students voted on the resolution and 1,383 supported it. Princeton’s Undergraduate Student Government was the only student government among the Ivy League to survey students, he said.
“I think it makes it more meaningful, knowing that almost 65 percent of the students who voted voted for [the resolution],” Hiscox said. “It has a special force to it.”
The Supreme Court has no fixed deadline for its decisions, but University of Michigan officials estimated that the Court will make its decision by the end of June.