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K-State Today

September 4, 2012

Lecturer to address the question: Are race-conscious college admissions policies the only way to achieve racial diversity among students?

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

In observance of Constitution Day, Kansas State University and the Dorothy L. Thompson Civil Rights Lecture Series will sponsor a lecture by Steven Ramirez, professor of law at Loyola University of Chicago Law School.

Ramirez will present "Affirmative Action at the Crossroads: The Uncertain Future of Race-Conscious College Admissions" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the K-State Alumni Center Ballroom. It is free to the public.

Ramirez will analyze an important case set for oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court this fall -- Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin. The lawsuit challenges a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas and may lead to the court reconsidering and altering affirmative action policies it had previously ruled constitutional in 2003.

"The University of Texas continued to use race as a factor in admitting some students despite a state law authorizing automatic admission at a public university in Texas for students in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class," said Michael Kaye, committee member for the lecture series and professor at Washburn Law School. "The law was intended to be a race-neutral method to promote racial diversity."

Notwithstanding the law, the university concluded that classroom ethnic and racial diversity were lacking. According to Kaye, the court must decide whether the university was constitutionally prohibited from considering an applicant's race or ethnicity because the 10 percent law allowed the school to pursue student diversity in a race-neutral manner and achieved a measure of racial diversity.

"Since membership on the Supreme Court has changed, the court now appears ready to revisit the question of the constitutional legitimacy of race-conscious efforts to promote student diversity on college campuses," Kaye said. "The justices also must decide if colleges can continue efforts to promote diversity by using race or ethnicity as an explicit factor in admissions, or whether these efforts must be curtailed or even abolished."

In the past, the court has been closely divided on this question. The case has already drawn intense and widespread national attention and will affect university affirmative action admissions policies nationwide.

As part of Ramirez's talk, the audience will be invited to participate in guided, small group discussions on whether race should be considered in deciding college admissions and how it can be done fairly.

The Dorothy L. Thompson Lecture Series was established to recognize Thompson's contributions to the field of human rights on campuses throughout Kansas and the nation. Thompson was associated with Kansas State University from 1971 until her death in 1992. During that time she was the university's director of affirmative action and associate university attorney.

For further information about the lecture contact Melissa Linenberger at mwaso@k-state.edu or go to the Dorothy L. Thompson Civil Rights Lecture Series website at http://www.k-state.edu/dthompson/.