Recent Supreme Court Decision In Case Involving Affirmative Action Won’t Impact OU

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Last month, the Supreme Court permitted affirmative action policies to live on at America’s college campuses – at least for a while. In Fisher v. The University of Texas, the court decided that the question of whether race can legally be taken into consideration in admissions decisions should be directed to a lower court, thereby buying universities with existing policies some time.

It’s time that Ohio University may not need. School officials say race isn’t a factor in the admissions decision process.

“We don't really have an affirmative action policy in place for admissions," said Ohio University Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell." "We look at all students holistically on their application, but we do ask students cultural background for the purposes of data analysis and recruitment. However, we don't have an affirmative action decision making policy when it comes to our applications.”

While Cornell says OU doesn’t use affirmative action when making admissions decisions as the University of Texas does, that doesn’t mean the university doesn’t take race into account in other areas.

“How we kind of deal with our desire [for diversity], we don't do through the application decision process, we definitely do it through the recruitment process. We have special multicultural recruitment activities, activities where we may directly invite multicultural students that we think are going to be successful here.”

At OU, recruitment is a complex process, and it’s made even more so when it comes to multicultural students. Joe Stone is an admissions counselor who directly oversees multicultural enrollment. He says the university follows a few rules in order to encourage minority students to come to the university.

“When you’re talking about recruiting, there’s two sides," said Stone. "One side is where we purchase names for specific areas that meet our criteria, the second is going to visit the areas that are strategically hotspots for us as far as the majority of our multicultural students to come from.”

The specific criteria that OU seeks in multicultural students aren’t that different from what they seek in majority population students – high GPA, high tests scores. Students that meet this criteria receive promotional materials from the university about academic programs, or financial aid exclusively offered to students from underrepresented backgrounds.

So far, it appears as if this multicultural recruitment system has been successful. In the past few years, the university has seen significant growth in multicultural populations.

“Something’s happening, something’s going right because one, we have the interest, two we actually have the students making the commitment and three, when they get here they’re successful," said Cornell. "So you place all three of those together and I think we’re at a place where we always have more to go but we’re kind of beyond the line of reaching that base level, we’re kind of at the next level of how do we make it a more fully rich engagement.”

That may be why officials don’t think the recent affirmative action ruling with the University of Texas will affect practices at OU.

“We don’t do that, in terms of affirmative action decisions,," said Cornell. "But that doesn’t mean we’re not going full board when it comes to our outreach opportunities that are there and the ways that we try to talk to multicultural students about the multicultural environment at OU.”

Cornell says the legal department will continue looking into the ruling to determine if any aspects of it will affect how OU reaches out to and retains minority students.