main navigation
my pace

The Atlantic | PACE UNIVERSITY

News & Events

Sort/Filter

Filter Newsfeed

News Item

"The Atlantic" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov in "What Happens When a College’s Affirmative-Action Policy Is Found Illegal"

10/30/2018

"The Atlantic" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov in "What Happens When a College’s Affirmative-Action Policy Is Found Illegal"

A Supreme Court case found that the University of Michigan was using race in admissions the wrong way. Then the state stepped in, and minority enrollments dropped.

Marvin Krislov had his hands full in 2003. The University of Michigan was on trial in two cases that challenged its affirmative-action policies. One case, Grutter v. Bollinger, alleged that the law school’s admissions policy was discriminatory; the other case, Gratz v. Bollinger, said the same was true of the undergraduate policy. Krislov, the general counsel of the university from 1998 to 2007, led the defense.

As the current trial against Harvard, which appears poised to head to the Supreme Court and which alleges that the institution discriminates against Asian American applicants, reaches the end of its second week, I spoke to Krislov about one possible outcome: what happens when the Court decides a school’s admissions policies are illegal.

When Krislov joined the University of Michigan in 1998, there were 1,944 full-time black undergraduate students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which was roughly 9 percent of the overall campus population. Four percent of the student body was Latino, and that figure had started to tick upwards after a few years of decline. Year over year, for the most part, the university was growing more diverse. And a lot of that diversity, said Krislov, now the president of Pace University, was due to actively factoring in race while considering students for admission.

But looming in the background were the two cases, which had been filed a few years before Krislov arrived. The Center for Individual Rights had led a charge to search for students who believed they had been denied admission to the university on the basis of their race, and they found them. One student, Barbara Grutter, a white woman, had been denied admission to the law school; another, Jennifer Gratz, also a white woman, had been denied admission to the undergraduate school.

The two separate cases at the University of Michigan reflected two separate systems of race-conscious admissions. The law school took the tack that Justice Lewis Powell had lavished praise upon in his 1978 opinion in the landmark Supreme Court case upholding the use of race in admissions. In the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case, Powell wrote that using race as one of many factors in considering an individual was the ideal way of doing admissions. But the undergraduate school, which was challenged by Gratz, used a point system; the system held that blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and low-income applicants were assigned 20 points automatically.

Over the course of six years, the cases wound their way through the courts, before arriving at the Supreme Court. And there were two very different outcomes. In a 5–4 decision, the university won in the case brought by Grutter, and the Court upheld the use of race in admissions for the purpose of campus diversity as long as it was used in a “narrowly tailored” way. The same could not be said for the undergraduate college. “It was found to be formulaic and not narrowly tailored,” Krislov told me. In a 6–3 decision, the Court found the undergraduate policy to be in violation of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a different take. In her dissenting opinion, she wrote: “If honesty is the best policy, surely Michigan’s accurately described, fully disclosed college affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises.” Isn’t it better, she asked, to just be honest about what you’re doing in admissions instead of disguising it?

Still, the university was forced by the Court to change its undergraduate admissions policy. In an interview with Judy Woodruff, then an anchor at CNN, shortly after the decision, Mary Sue Coleman, the university’s president at the time, said the shift wouldn’t be that difficult. “What we may do is to fashion our undergraduate policy along the lines of the law-school policy, which the Court said is fine and said that the law-school policy is constitutional,” she said. “And what that means is it’s a more individualized attention to every single application. And we’re happy to do that.”

And that’s what the university did. For the first couple of years after the school made the switch, the undergraduate black and Latino populations hovered around 1,750 (8 percent) and 1,100 (6 percent), respectively. “Then, shortly thereafter, Ward Connerly came to the state,” Krislov says.

Connerly was the political strategist who had ushered Proposition 209, the ballot measure that banned affirmative action in California, through the process. The measure he organized in Michigan, the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,” or Proposition 2, passed on referendum in 2006. “The referendum changed the permissibility of considering race at all, and so Michigan has been struggling to try to improve the percentage—particularly of African Americans—that has fallen since the referendum,” Krislov said.

Read the full article.

News & Events

Sort/Filter

Filter Newsfeed

News Item

"The Atlantic" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov in "The Schools That Are Bringing Poor Kids Into the Middle Class"

05/29/2018

"The Atlantic" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov in "The Schools That Are Bringing Poor Kids Into the Middle Class"

The evidence is clear: A college degree is, in most cases, the key to more money and a more comfortable standard of living. But that pathway to higher earnings is more available to some than others: A lot of elite colleges do not enroll a lot of low-income students, and as a result they’re not boosting very many students from low-income households into the middle and upper classes.

Dozens of top colleges and universities have more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than the bottom 60 percent, as The New York Times pointed out last year. And that’s a problem if colleges hope to escape the common critique that they are little more than a finishing school for the elite.

But there are institutions—a lot of them—that have strong track records of improving the socioeconomic fortunes of students. If higher education is supposed to be the great equalizer, these institutions—from community colleges to public regional four-year colleges like Cal State and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County—are the ones that are doing the most work.

Last week in Los Angeles, at the Education Writers Association’s annual seminar, I moderated a panel featuring a handful of people who are thinking a lot about the socioeconomic mobility of students, and more fundamentally, the purpose of higher education. The panel, which included Marvin Krislov, the president of Pace University; Dianne Harrison, the president of California State University, Northridge; and Allan Golston, of the Gates Foundation, had a few recommendations. Colleges should be actively recruiting and enrolling low-income students—and that means more than targeting ads to prospective students on social media. It means a commitment to going where they are—areas that a lot of schools do not typically recruit—and demystifying the process of going to college. Then they should be supporting students with resources when the students get to campus—whether it’s writing centers, generous financial aid packages, or simply empathetic academic advisors who perhaps came from low-income backgrounds themselves. And it is also preparing students for jobs after college and building relationships with businesses that ease the process of finding post-graduation employment for students, especially for those whose parents don’t have their own professional networks.

Pace ranks first among private colleges in catapulting its students from the lowest rungs of the income scale and into the middle and upper class, according to data from the Equality of Opportunity Project, a massive research undertaking on social mobility led by the economist Raj Chetty. “We know that there are a lot of ways in which people of privilege benefit from their college years or having unpaid internships or having the social capital to get certain jobs,” Krislov said. But colleges can fill those gaps, particularly for low-income students, helping students get jobs, or buoying them with programs that help them land paid internships with top companies. “We provide strong networks, not only through alumni, but through faculty and staff as well. And that way we help a new generation, a new, socioeconomically diverse generation, achieve the American dream.”

Read the full article.