Group Alleges University of Wisconsin's Diversity Policies are "Discriminatory;" Protesters Take Over Press Conference

MADISON -- The University of Wisconsin-Madison's race-conscious admissions policies amount to "severe racial discrimination," announced Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) president Roger Clegg at a press conference Tuesday. As the event concluded, supporters of the university's diversity policies took over the conference room, and beneficiaries of the diversity policies Clegg attacked shared their experiences.

Group Alleges Discrimination Against Whites

Center for Equal Opportunity president Roger CleggAt the press conference, Clegg announced the results of two CEO reports studying race-based data for undergraduate and law schools admissions at UW-Madison, Wisconsin's flagship public university. The organization has performed dozens of similar studies at other universities, and according to Clegg, UW-Madison's "admission discrimination" favoring minority students over white students is the "worst ... of all schools" the organization has studied.

During the 2010-2011 school year, 30,977 white undergraduate students attended UW-Madison, alongside 1,079 African-American students and 1,586 Latino students.

Clegg said that, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker considers appointments to the university's Board of Regents, "the Governor should consider ... whether [the candidate] supports this form of discrimination." Governor Walker took office in January of this year. The data used in the report was from 2007 and 2008; Clegg denied that the organization delayed the study's release until a school year began with a sympathetic governor in place.

CEO, which has received Koch funding, compared the test scores and class rank of admitted students by race, and developed an odds ratio which Clegg said favored African-American and Hispanic applicants over whites (576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively). "It is untenable for a public institution to sort people based on skin color or country of ancestry," he said.

Study's Methodology Called Into Question

When asked whether CEO took into account the "subjective criteria" universities consider in admissions to create a desirable academic environment, Clegg replied "it was certainly true that we did not consider that" in developing the odds ratio. He stated he had "no reason to believe" that students of color would score better on subjective criteria than white students.

Clegg was also questioned about whether the study might be made more accurate by comparing the scores and grades of those students who were "displaced" with those of the minority students who were admitted, rather than comparing the numbers for admitted students of color with the white student body as a whole. "Isn't this a better comparison?," he was asked.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Clegg replied, as he moved on to the next question.

For some, Clegg's allegations were personal.

"I've busted my ass to get here," an African-American student told Clegg, choking back tears. "I've done everything right. ... You're acting as if these policies are a national epidemic," she said, when there are more pressing issues to worry about. "Can't you spend your time doing something else?"

Protesters Enter Conference Room

Protesters take over press conferenceAs the press conference wound down, the chants of protesters outside the room grew louder. "We're more than our scores!" and "power to the people" could be heard. As press conference attendees departed, a multi-racial group of student protesters entered. Clegg quickly left the room.

"As long as we're here, we may as well hold our own press conference," said UW-Madison student C.J. Terrell as he stepped behind the podium. "I feel like a professor. And hopefully, if I do become a professor one day, my class will look a lot like this," he said, motioning to the diverse group of student protesters who had taken seats in front of him.

One-by-one, students took the podium to share their stories and to denounce what they perceived as Clegg's attack on students of color.

African-American student Daylon Cunningham cited the importance of diversity policies for the next generation, saying he knows his "thirteen nieces and nephews need extra support, because I know they live in a society that discriminates against them ... would [Clegg] look [them] in the eye and tell them not to dream to become a doctor or a lawyer?"

First They Came for the Labor Unions ...

Protesters take over press conference"Everyone is getting attacked at once," said Terrell, citing Governor Walker's effort earlier this year to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The connection between the attack on unions and the attack on diversity policies may not be remote. CEO Chair Linda Chavez, nominated in 2001 by President George W. Bush to be Secretary of Labor, has written favorably about Walker's union-busting plans. CEO is also funded by many of the same organizations bankrolling anti-union forces: it was founded with a grant from the Olin Foundation, and in addition to Koch funding, has received grants from the Bradley Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

Clegg is scheduled to speak at Union South's Varsity Hall at 7pm this evening, and students are planning a protest starting at 6pm on the University's Bascom Hill.

A student who identified himself as Marcelo said "today at 6pm I'll be there ... but now I have to go to class."