A conservative think tank released a report Monday claiming the University of Oklahoma gives black and American Indian students an unfair advantage in admissions.
But university officials dispute that claim, saying their admissions policy encourages campus diversity without using racial preferences.
Center for Equal Opportunity, a Virginia-based think tank, based its report on admissions data from OU's undergraduate programs, law school and medical school.
The study used data from students admitted to the law school in 2005 and 2006, the medical school in 1996 and 1999 and undergraduates admitted from 2005 to 2007. The organization wouldn't provide the data on which the analysis was based.
According to the report, black OU students were admitted with a lower median ACT score and high school grade-point average than their Asian, Hispanic and white counterparts. American Indian students were admitted with median ACT scores and GPAs that were higher than black students, but lower than Asian, Hispanic and white students.
Roger Clegg, the center's president and general counsel, said the data suggests OU gives preference to black and American Indian applicants over other racial groups. The pattern is roughly the same for OU's undergraduate programs, law school and medical school, he said.
“We did find a definite pattern that racial preferences are being used at the University of Oklahoma,” Clegg said.
OU officials have maintained the school doesn't factor applicants' race into admissions decisions. At the time, undergraduate admission to OU was based on minimum criteria such as ACT scores and high school GPA and class rank. The university was allowed a certain number of exceptions per year, in which it was allowed to admit students based on other factors such as writing ability, high school course rigor and special talents. OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said those decisions never included race as a factor.
OU recently adopted a holistic admissions policy that allows the university to admit students who might have been rejected under the university's automatic admissions requirements. That new policy includes a range of admissions considerations that weren't included in the old system, but the applicant's race isn't among them.
In a statement, Bishop said the university uses outreach and recruiting practices, rather than racial preferences, to promote campus diversity.
“It is unfortunate that the university was not contacted or provided an opportunity to participate in the (center's) study,” she said. “Had the university been contacted, we might have been able to clarify items that seem to be misunderstood by those who prepared the report.”
The use of racial preferences in college admissions has been the subject of scrutiny following a case that came before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The suit was brought by a Texas woman who claimed she was denied admittance into the University of Texas because she is white.
Abigail Noel Fisher, a graduate of Steven F. Foster High School in Sugar Land, Texas, challenged the state university's admissions policy after she was rejected by the school in 2008. UT guarantees admission to students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, but Fisher's 3.59 GPA was not enough to make the grade.
UT admits a certain number of other students, for whom race, leadership experience, socioeconomic status and other factors can provide an admissions advantage.
Oklahomans will go to the polls in two weeks to vote on a ballot measure that seeks to end affirmative action for education. State Question 759 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to ban special treatment based on race or sex in public hiring, education or contracts. The state question will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Had the university been contacted, we might have been able to clarify items that seem to be misunderstood by those who prepared the report.”