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The U.S. Department of Education’s civil-rights office is investigating a complaint that the University of Virginia discriminates against white applicants. The complaint was filed after the Charlottesville university denied admission to a white male student from New York for a spot in fall 2003′s incoming undergraduate class. “Many kids with far less qualifications had already been accepted to the university in the name of diversity,” the student’s father said in his complaint, which was obtained by The Associated Press with names and other identifying information redacted. He added, “if my son had been a girl or a minority with his grades, test scores and extracurricular activities he would have been admitted to the University on his own with no problem.” U.Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood confirmed Wednesday that the Office of Civil Rights is reviewing the university’s undergraduate admission procedures with Virginia’s legal department. She declined to discuss the investigation or the complaint but said that U.Va. considers diversity just one of many factors in determining admission, and the application of each prospective student is thoroughly discussed and debated among a team of reviewers. In 2004, the university received 15,094 applications, and mailed acceptance letters to 4,724 students for a target enrollment of 3,040, Wood said. Sixty-eight percent of incoming students were Virginia residents. Similar numbers were seen in 2003, she said. “It is a very competitive process,” Wood said. “There were many, many qualified students and it’s a very difficult process.” The investigation is the civil-rights office’s first in an admissions case since the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 in two cases involving the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action admissions policies, said Kenneth L. Marcus, the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for enforcement. In those rulings the Supreme Court upheld a general affirmative-action policy at the university’s law school but struck down the university’s undergraduate formula as too rigid because it awarded admission points based on race. Marcus couldn’t comment on the U.Va. investigation but said his office uses the same standards when it evaluates all affirmative-action cases and determines whether to conduct formal investigations. The complaint was filed in May 2003, a month before the rulings. But the department’s Office of Civil Rights didn’t notify U.Va. of the investigation until early August 2003. The father wrote to U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., asking her staff to contact the university to check on the status of the case, which it did, said Rob Recklaus, spokesman for McCarthy, who represents Long Island’s westernmost suburbs. The university never responded, Recklaus said, and McCarthy’s office didn’t hear back from the father, either. The student enrolled at another university, according to the father’s complaint. The Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes race-based policies, has analyzed admissions data to determine how U.Va. weighs race and ethnicity to determine who gets in, and is glad that the Office of Civil Rights is investigating the U.Va. case. “I think the process is working the way it’s supposed to work,” said the group’s general counsel, Roger B. Clegg. “If the Supreme Court’s constraints on the use of race and ethnicity are not being followed, there will be consequences.” U.Va. President John Casteen was among many school presidents who welcomed the Michigan decision in 2003, saying that “the Court has approved admission practices that appear to be essentially those that we follow.” The percentage of new black students enrolling at Virginia has dipped slightly since 2002, when 9.6 percent of incoming students were African-American, U.Va. said. Black students made up 8.8 percent of incoming students in 2003 and 9.3 percent in 2004. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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