Effort Under Way to Roll Back Race-Sensitive Admissions in Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin system enrolls only 15 percent of the black students who graduate from the state’s high schools. For whites, the figure is 34 percent. Relatively high admissions standards have made it difficult for many blacks to gain admission to the state’s flagship campus in Madison. Blacks are 2.6 percent of the enrollments at the 40,000-student campus. This is less than one half the level that would exist if African-American enrollments equaled the black percentage of the Wisconsin population.

In an effort to enroll as many black students as possible, admissions officials at the university continue to practice race-sensitive admissions. Official system policy is to use a holistic approach to a student’s application examining factors such as race, socioeconomic status, leadership ability, and success in overcoming disadvantages.

But a movement is under way in the state to end all affirmative action admissions programs. GOP State Senator Glenn Grothman has convened hearings at the State Capitol to examine the university’s admissions policies. He invited Ward Connerly to come to Madison to testify before the committee on why universities should not use race as a positive factor in the admissions process. Wisconsin is not a state where a public referendum can be held on the matter. So Grothman hopes to initiate legislation to prohibit the use of race in university admissions.