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UNC Amicus Brief Supports Diversity in Admissions

The University has filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case involving the consideration of race in college admissions. UNC is one of the first of about 10 universities expected to file briefs with the court, which will hear oral arguments in October.

Prepared by law school faculty members and the Office of University Counsel, the 27-page brief argues, among other things, that UNC and other public universities have a compelling state interest in preparing students for a diverse society and assuring a pool of strong state leaders by admitting undergraduates from every background.

A requirement to adopt a “race-neutral” admissions policy would weaken the quality of future classes, exclude strong candidates and undermine attempts to create a diverse campus, the authors of the brief write.

The brief also cites supporting evidence of the importance of diversity in education from the recently concluded Educational Diversity Project, a 10-year multidisciplinary research study conducted by four professors, including two Carolina faculty members — law professor and deputy director of the Center for Civil Rights Charles Daye and quantitative psychologist A.T. Panter. Results of the study, which focused on law school experiences, will be published in the summer issue of Rutgers Race & the Law Review and are available online at Social Science Research Network.

The researchers found that many observed racial differences among students contribute to learning because differences foster richer interactions and positive educational outcomes that benefit students, institutions and society. This exposure to a diversity of viewpoints prepares the students to be better lawyers, making them more “culturally competent.”

The case could affect the nuanced, multifaceted process the University uses in selecting the students for its incoming class, and Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at UNC, is following the case extremely closely.

“Our students need to study alongside classmates from all backgrounds,” Farmer said. “The more they learn from the experiences and perspectives of others, the better they’ll be able to face the challenges of a changing and increasingly diverse world, and to lead others to face those challenges.”


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