There is never a perfect solution for an imperfect situation. Given the racial inequities that exist today, finding a fair way to improve diversity on college campuses can be problematic. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is nothing we can do. We should all have the goal of creating a society where nobody’s race is a disadvantage.

In our quest for a good solution to racial inequalities, it is obvious that there are some things that are inherently bad –slavery, segregation and hate crimes are inexcusable.

The line of appropriateness becomes blurred when race relations are placed in the context of education. We support UR, along with 37 other private institutions, in their filing of a Supreme Court brief defending the right to use race-sensitive admissions policies that consider race as one of many factors.

In its quest for diversity, UR has avoided any type of quota system. Instead of looking strictly at numbers and percentages, the admissions office considers each candidate as an individual — considering personal achievement in the context of each candidate’s specific background. UR works to achieve all types of diversity — academic, religious, geographic, ethnic and extracurricular. This is the way admissions should work.

UR adheres to a high academic standard in its selection — the academic quality of UR’s student body should not be sacrificed, but it is important to remember that there are other factors that contribute to a meaningful college experience. As stated in the brief, quoted from Keyishian v. Board of Regents, “It is not too much to say that the nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples.”

Implementing steps to break the cycle of racial inequality must start somewhere, and higher education — specifically at UR — is as good a place as any. Students can only benefit from embracing diversity of all types.

Affirmative action was placed under the microscope recently when a set of lawsuits against the University of Michigan’s undergraduate college and law school and comments by President Bush criticized the so-called quota system and points-based admissions policy used by Michigan. While the points-based system needs to be retooled, the underlying idea of promoting diversity is a good one.

The difference between UR and Michigan lies in the fact that UR is a small private institution and Michigan is a large public school. As outlined in the brief, admissions policies at private universities must differ from those at public schools because the institutions themselves are inherently different.

As stated in the brief, some public university systems have attempted to use race “neutral” factors such as socioeconomic status or geography to achieve racial diversity. It is questionable whether these techniques achieve racial diversity in public schools with large enrollments and more than one campus, but it is clear that these methods cannot work in the context of a private institution such as UR.

Because UR has a limited enrollment and attempts to admit students from all over the world, race “neutral” policies are impractical. UR must take race and its impact on personal perspective and experience into account when considering admission. This is the only way to maintain a racially diverse, and therefore healthy, college environment.

Moving beyond stereotypes and social conventions cannot be done passively — UR and other institutions of higher education must take an active stance to promote all types of diversity while still adhering to a high academic standard. Increasing diversity and opportunity is the only way to break the cycle of poor race relations in America.

Though race is something that should never be a disadvantage, it should not be erased — race is part of an individual’s identity. America thrives on diversity and we are all enriched by its presence. We must actively pursue diversity of all types. Embracing and encouraging diversity now gets us one step closer to achieving an ideal world where people are judged by their merits rather than their appearance.

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