Naked City

How 'bout them Aggies?

While the headlines and the talk shows have been preoccupied with the terrible injustice of the NCAA's Bowl Championship Series -- how can USC have been left begging at the Sugar Bowl, and what a tragedy it is that the Longhorns must return to the Holiday Bowl -- there's been relatively less attention to Texas A&M's determination to keep its little corner of East Texas mired in the 19th century, pre-1860. Last week the board of regents voted to adopt an admissions policy that will ignore a student's race as a factor in evaluation, although the Supreme Court has ruled that race can be considered, and other Texas universities have moved to restore affirmative action to admissions procedures. Instead, A&M administrators say they will use greater minority outreach and scholarships for lower-income students to increase diversity at the campus, where the student body is currently 82% Anglo, and only 2% African-American.

Following the public announcement of the policy, a group of minority legislators requested a meeting with A&M President Robert Gates, who apologized for not consulting first with the officials, but defended the policy. Gates told reporters that the school will "intensify significantly" its minority recruitment efforts, but will avoid affirmative action because, "Every student who is at A&M must know ... that he or she and all students here have been admitted on personal merit."

Minority legislators emerged from the meeting saying they were unconvinced by Gates' reassurances about recruitment, and that they would hold the school accountable. Dallas Sen. Royce West said that barring real progress on the issue, the school might soon find its legislative interests -- in appropriations or appointments -- running into problems. And Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini said that the legislators and Gates had agreed that there will be "specific performance measure criteria" to evaluate the school's progress, and that the legislators will not be satisfied with promises. "'Trust me' just won't cut it," Zaffirini told the Houston Chronicle, "even from someone as nice and well-intentioned as President Gates."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

university admissions, Texas A&M, affirmative action, admissions policy, Robert Gates, Royce West, Judith Zaffirini

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