Tuesday, June 24, 2003

UH officials
praise court ruling

The U.S. high court affirms
that schools can have programs
to encourage diversity

Some University of Hawaii officials praised a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action yesterday that allows it to maintain admission programs designed to create diversity.

"I'm very pleased with the affirmation of the rationale of the importance of diversity," said Amy Agbayani, director of the Office of Student, Equity, Excellence and Diversity at UH-Manoa.

The court ruled 5-4 yesterday to uphold the University of Michigan's law school admission policy that sought a "critical mass" of minorities. The court also, by a 6-3 vote, struck down Michigan's undergraduate admission formula of awarding points to minorities based on race.

That decision does not affect UH, officials said.

"We don't give point value to race or ethnicity for undergraduate admissions," said Janice Heu, interim director of the Admissions & Records Office.

Agbayani said extensive outreach programs are available at the university to assist underrepresented students.

Agbayani said 27 percent of public school students in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian while 21 percent of them are Filipino.

But, Native Hawaiians and Filipinos only make up 15 percent and 14 percent of the student population, respectively, in the UH system, she said. At the same time, each group makes up less than 9 percent of the student population on the Manoa campus, Agbayani said.

"We have to educate these groups so they can be full participants in our society in every segment of our society, including the professional fields" she said.

Officials at the university's medical and law pre-admission programs said the Supreme Court ruling on the Michigan law school's policy reinforced what UH has been doing for years.

"It provides the medical schools to continue the physician work force that mirrors our society," said Nanette Judd, director of the Imi Ho'ola post-baccalaureate program at the university's John A. Burns School of Medicine.

The 31-year-old program admits 10 disadvantaged students each year to complete a 12-month program before entering the School of Medicine.

Lawrence Foster, dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law, echoed Agbayani's sentiment.

"It reaffirms the continuing existence of the use of affirmative-action programs," he said.

The 30-year-old pre-admission law program accepts 12 disadvantaged students each year who spend either an extra semester or an additional school year in law school.

"Our main task in the pre-admission program is to give them the opportunity for those who may have had a disadvantage. It levels the playing field in the admission process," said Assistant Dean Laurie Tochiki.

"It's not unusual to have a pre-admission student at the top of the class," said Tochiki.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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