Posted on December 9, 2004

Federal Civil-Rights Office Investigates Admissions Policies at U. of Virginia

Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 8

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint that the University of Virginia discriminates against white applicants for undergraduate admission, and has been asked to look into similar allegations involving North Carolina State University’s undergraduate program, the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine in Baltimore, and the law schools at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary.

The civil-rights office provided The Chronicle with details of its investigation into the University of Virginia’s undergraduate admissions policies on Tuesday. In an interview, Kenneth L. Marcus, who oversees the civil-rights office, said that the existence of such an investigation means that his agency has evaluated the complaint and taken it seriously enough to contact the university for more information and a resolution.

The investigation at Virginia is the office’s first examination of a college’s admissions policies since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2003 rulings in two cases involving affirmative action at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (The Chronicle, July 4, 2003).

The complaint actually was filed in May 2003, one month before the Supreme Court rendered those decisions, but the civil-rights office did not notify Virginia of its investigation until early August 2003, after the court had ruled. The young white man at the center of the complaint had been rejected by the university after applying for admission in the fall of 2003.

In its letter to UVa’s president, John T. Casteen 3rd, the civil-rights office said the complaint was filed by the father of the youth denied admission. The letter says that the father alleges that the university discriminated against his son by denying him admission “because he was not a minority or female student” and that “the university’s undergraduate admissions policies and procedures discriminate against nonminority male students.”