CONTACT: STEVE PARROTT
5 Old Capitol
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-0557; fax (319) 335-0558
Association of American Universities Statement
on the Importance of Diversity in University Admissions
April 14, 1997
For some time, the consideration of ethnicity, race and gender as factors
in college and university admissions has been strenuously discussed both within
and outside of the academy.
The public debate about the goal of diversity, as well as affirmative action;
the 1995 decision of the Regents of University of California to discontinue
any special consideration of ethnicity, race and gender as factors in admissions;
the passage of Proposition 209 in California; and the Hopwood ruling
of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have all combined to create substantial
uncertainty about the future representation of minority students within our
student bodies. Special efforts to identify and enroll women -- particularly
but not only in fields such as mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering
-- may also be affected.
As members of the Association of American Universities, we therefore want
to express our strong conviction concerning the continuing need to take into
account a wide range of considerations -- including ethnicity, race and gender
-- as we evaluate the students whom we select for admission.
We speak first and foremost as educators. We believe that our students benefit
significantly from education that takes place within a diverse setting. In
the course of their university education, our students encounter and learn
from others who have backgrounds and characteristics very different from their
own. As we seek to prepare students for life in the 21st century, the educational
value of such encounters will become more important, not less, than in the
A very substantial portion of our curriculum is enhanced by the discourse
made possible by the heterogeneous backgrounds of our students. Equally, a
significant part of education in our institutions takes place outside the
classroom, in extracurricular activities where students learn how to work
together, as well as to compete; how to exercise leadership, as well as to
build consensus. If our institutional capacity to bring together a genuinely
diverse group of students is removed -- or severely reduced -- then the quality
and texture of the education we provide will be significantly diminished.
For several decades -- in many cases, far longer -- our universities have
assembled their student bodies to take into account many aspects of diversity.
The most effective admissions processes have done this in a way that assesses
students as individuals, while also taking into account their potential to
contribute to the education of their fellow-students in a great variety of
ways. We do not advocate admitting students who cannot meet the criteria for
admission to our universities. We do not endorse quotas or "set-asides"
in admission. But we do insist that we must be able, as educators, to select
those students -- from among many qualified applicants -- who will best enable
our institutions to fulfill their broad educational purposes.
In this respect, we speak not only as educators, but also as concerned citizens.
As presidents and chancellors of universities that have historically produced
many of America's leaders in business, government, the professions, and the
arts, we are conscious of our obligation to educate exceptional people who
will serve all of the nation's different communities. The evaluation of an
individual applicant to our universities cannot, therefore, be based on a
narrow or mainly "statistical" definition of merit. The concept
of merit must take fully into account not only academic grades and standardized
test scores, but also the many unquantifiable human qualities and capacities
of individuals, including their promise for continuing future development.
It must include characteristics such as the potential for leadership -- especially
the requirements for leadership in a heterogeneous democratic society such
We therefore reaffirm our commitment to diversity as a value that is central
to the very concept of education in our institutions. And we strongly reaffirm
our support for the continuation of admissions policies, consistent with the
broad principles of equal opportunity and equal protection, that take many
factors and characteristics into account -- including ethnicity, race and
gender -- in the selection of those individuals who will be students today,
and leaders in the years to come.