Affirmative action, which recently has become so controversial on campus that groups on both sides of the issue have called for immediate judicial and administrative action against the other sides, is not practiced on campus.”I don’t define [what we do] as affirmative action,” Director of Minority Student Affairs Norman Burnett said. “We support diversity in a number of ways – sexual orientation, students with disabilities and so on. If that’s what you define as affirmative action, I’d support it, and I think all universities should.”The Office of Minority Student Affairs works closely with the admissions office. “Our office is involved in some admission decisions,” Burnett said. “I know for a fact there aren’t any quotas or points assigned.””[Affirmative action] is not what we do,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick said. “I mean, it’s not part of the admission policy.” “Everyone has numbers attached to them, but we don’t say, ‘Admit some of these and some of these and none of those,'” he said. Burdick explained that affirmative action wasn’t practiced because it isn’t necessary. “We’re small, we have individual focus, we have a one-on-one approach, so we don’t need it,” he said. “We don’t have to do it because we’re small enough that we can pay attention to people one at a time.”He said that in the application process, specifically looking for diversity was unnecessary. “The funny thing about diversity is that you don’t have to impose it,” he said. “When people read files all day long, [difference] is one of the thing that jumps out at you, [and] race is one way in which people are different.”He cited a different kind of diversity that the admissions office could consider. “I’ve had a lot of people quiz me on what I mean by diversity,” he said. “When I was working on California, a student from Vermont would have been shouted from the rooftops.”Burnett welcomed debate about the issue, but he felt it could be handled better. “On the one hand it’s good the faculty is taking an interest [in the students],” Burnett said. “But I wish the faculty was a bit more knowledgeable about the issues.” Burdick agreed. “I’m fine with the questions,” he said. “I just wish someone had been [at discussions about the issue] who could have taken on the answers.”However, chairman of the College Republicans and sophomore Noah Lebowitz argued that affirmative action was still practiced by UR. “There don’t have to be quotas and points assigned for it to be affirmative action,” he said. “They still look at race and ethnicity.” He objected to admissions officers looking at other types of diversity like sexual orientation or disabilities, but felt it was not as bad as using race. “To me that’s only problematic,” he said. “And it’s illegal when you consider race.”A letter with the administration’s formal response to the bake sale was received by the Campus Times yesterday. It was written by Provost Charles Phelps and President Thomas Jackson. Dean of The College William Green and Dean of Students Jody Asbury also expressed support for the letter. “We think it is a very strong statement,” Green said. “The important thing to say from our point of view is that Asbury and I are meeting [with groups involved], and there will be lots of follow-up conversations.”Despite the highly emotional controversy, Burdick felt that reaching a consensus was possible. “I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna, [but] I think outside the divisiveness of the issue, there’s a larger common ground,” he said. “We’re not contributing to a new kind of injustice like one side is saying [nor] enforcing arbitrary standards like the other side is saying.”One foundation of that potential common ground is a form of affirmative action based on something other than race. Senior and College Republicans member Noah Kuschel, felt that might be an acceptable compromise. “I don’t think it’s unconstitutional,” he said at the bake sale. “I would not be radically opposed to it.”Levesque can be reached at clevesque@campustimes.org.



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