The Passage of I-200 Means the UW Has to Find Other Ways to Attract-And Maintain-a Diverse Student Body

By Jon Marmor

Wednesday, Nov. 4, was like any other late autumn day in Seattle, cloudy, cool, a touch of winter on the way. But this was no ordinary day at the University of Washington. The state's flagship public university was about to embark on one of the biggest challenges in its history.

Simply put: how could it continue to have a diverse student body and workforce in light of a new law?

The night before, Washington voters approved Initiative 200, which was aimed at dismantling the state's affirmative action programs. Although everyone saw it coming-most expected I-200 to pass, though the 58 to 42 percent margin was surprising-it meant the UW had to change the way it did things. Exactly how, though, was up in the air.

One thing was certain. "This is going to have a very big effect on this campus," says Myron Apilado, the UW's vice president for minority affairs.

At first, the election results brought uncertainty. The morning after the election, concerned students went to the Office of Student Affairs, wondering if it was still open and its programs operating. Prospective minority students called, wondering if their applications might have been suddenly rendered invalid by the election results.

The office was open, the applications were just fine. Yet, while it is a little early to know all the effects of I-200, it will definitely be a landmark change in admissions, since race and gender no longer can be used in considering entry qualifications. But one thing will never change: the University's resolve to have a diverse student population.

"Diversity is a critically important value to the educational mission of the University of Washington," says President Richard L. McCormick.

"The recent passage of Initiative 200 has deprived us of a tool that has been useful in promoting diversity for decades," McCormick says. "That goal of diversity remains as important as ever, and it is far from achieved. We have a historical opportunity to provide leadership and to make a difference on behalf of excellence and opportunity at our University and beyond."

The UW is meeting the challenge head on through a number of initiatives. The President's Advisory Committee on Diversity, headed up by Vice President for Student Affairs Ernest Morris, serves as the primary forum for considering a wide array of concerns, ideas and suggestions for promoting diversity.

The committee includes Apilado, ASUW President Franklin Donahoe, Regent Constance Procter, Tacoma Chancellor Vicky Carwein, Creative Writing Professor Charles Johnson and other student, faculty and administration representatives.

In addition, a Diversity Working Group, headed up by Morris and Apilado, is dealing with immediate questions on complying with the law and offers campus units guidance on handling admissions, scholarships and other issues.

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