Following the passage of a ballot measure banning the use of affirmative action in Oklahoma, the state's colleges and universities are assessing their programs to see where changes need to be made.
Oklahoma State Question 759 amends the state constitution to ban preferential treatment in state agencies, including public colleges and universities, based on race, gender, ethnicity or national origin.
The measure approved Tuesday is expected to have limited impact on college admissions in the state. Oklahoma's public colleges and universities don't use race as a factor in admissions but encourage campus diversity through other means, including marketing and recruiting practices.
The new law will reach beyond admissions practices, potentially affecting areas such as campus programs and employment.
“We don't think it will have a significant impact,” said Anil Gollahalli, general counsel for the University of Oklahoma.
By not taking race into account in admissions, Gollahalli said, OU eliminates the largest area where questions could arise. The university also doesn't administer state-funded scholarships based on race or gender.
The OU Foundation — a private nonprofit organization — administers a few privately funded scholarships based on race or gender, Gollahalli said. OU officials will review those scholarships to make sure the university doesn't have a role in the programs the new amendment would prohibit.
OU officials are looking at other areas that might be an issue, Gollahalli said. Most of the activities on campus are race and gender neutral, he said, but university officials won't know what changes will need to be made until the review process is over.
Oklahoma State University officials say they are reviewing their policies.
“OSU does not take race or any of the other prohibited categories into account for admissions purposes,” said OSU spokesman Gary Shutt. “We do follow federal affirmative action requirements in employment actions as specifically permitted under the constitutional amendment.”
OSU students are eligible for several scholarships based on race and gender, including some that are funded by American Indian tribes and designated for members of those tribes, he said. Most of those scholarships are administered by the OSU Foundation, which isn't a state agency, he said.
The practice of using race as an admissions factor has invited criticism at public schools across the country including the University of Texas, which argued a case involving affirmative action this year before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was brought by Abigail Noel Fisher, a Texas woman who claimed she was denied admission into the University of Texas because she is white.
A decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is expected in July.