University of Wisconsin Gives Thumbs Up to Race-Sensitive Admissions

Bucking a nationwide trend of public universities shying away from their commitment to race-sensitive admissions due to the threat of litigation from right-wing interest groups, the University of Wisconsin’s board of regents has voted to adopt a new admissions program requiring all campuses in the state system to consider race as a positive factor in the process. The action was taken despite warnings that the policy might produce a lawsuit against the state system and could produce a political backlash from white voters. State law in Wisconsin prohibits state universities from “basing admissions on applicants’ race.” However, proponents of the new policy say that the state law does not preclude the University of Wisconsin and other state educational institutions from “considering race.”

Unlike the case in neighboring Michigan, where voters approved a public referendum prohibiting the consideration of race, no such initiative mechanism exists in Wisconsin. To amend the state constitution, two consecutive sessions of the state legislature must approve any change before it can be submitted to voters. With the Democrats in firm control of the state Senate, it is highly unlikely that voters will ever get the chance to vote on the issue of affirmative action.

However, all parties agree that litigation will be forthcoming.