Peggy Williams on Supreme Court Ruling


Contributed by Maureen Forrest

Ithaca College President Peggy R. Williams has issued the following statement regarding the rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan.

No matter which way the Supreme Court rulings went in the University of Michigan cases, Ithaca College was committed to the notion of enhancing diversity among our students, faculty, and staff. This is embodied in our mission statement as well as our institutional plan, because we believe that a more diverse College community enriches the educational experience for everyone and promotes a stronger, healthier society.

We are pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld the legality -- and seen the value -- of affirmative action programs as one of the tools that may be used for increasing the numbers of students from historically underrepresented populations in higher education. Colleges and universities traditionally have enjoyed significant latitude in fulfilling their mission to provide high-quality education, and should be allowed to take into account racial diversity as one factor among the many considered in admission decisions.

As a practical matter, the rulings should have no effect on Ithaca College because our admission policies are different from those used by both the undergraduate and law schools at the University of Michigan. Ithaca does not assign points or otherwise have differing standards for prospects from differing racial/ethnic categories, so the court's ruling that race cannot be "a deciding factor" in admission does not apply to Ithaca.

We do act affirmatively in our student recruitment programs by committing resources to identify and target students of color, to communicate to select populations through direct mail, phone calling, school visits, campus visits, institutional partnerships, alumni networking, and other focused activities. We also act affirmatively in the yield phase of the admission process. Once a student of color has been accepted, we make strong efforts to convince that student to attend Ithaca College.

The success of our efforts can be seen in the numbers. Applications from students of color have gone up from 667 in 1998 to 1,252 in 2003. The number of students of color in the freshman class has gone up from 82 in 1998 to an estimated 165 for this coming fall.

The Supreme Court's affirmation of the concept of affirmative action will help continue the steady progress that has been made in the endeavor to ensure that all groups in American society have an equal opportunity for access to higher education.

Contributed by David Maley