University should be proud of opening up minority scholarships

Carnegie Mellon University took a bold step March 19 by increasing access to several of its scholarship programs. Responding to the Supreme Court?s decision in Gratz v. Bollinger, CMU no longer felt that it could support racially and sexually exclusive scholarships. In the Gratz decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the University of Michigan could not use point bonuses on an admissions rubric to bolster minority enrollment. This decision is a logical progression given that the use of race as a factor in such decisions was mandated to be a temporary measure, and is supported by the U.S. Department of Education?s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)?s recent statement that ?programs that use race or national origin as sole eligibility criteria are extremely difficult to defend.? With affirmative action limited in scope last summer, the University?s decision to audit its own affirmative action policies is laudable.
The programs in question are the Summer Program for Minority Students, the Judith Resnik Challenger Scholarship, and the Carnegie Mellon Scholarship Program. Each was previously limited to groups of students relatively underrepresented at Carnegie Mellon: racial minorities and women. By changing their policies before complaints such as those by the American Civil Rights Institute and the Center for Equal Opportunity were reviewed by the OCR, the administration has shown that it is committed to moving towards the day where such superficial divisions of humanity no longer matter.
Opponents of the administration?s move may try to claim that scholarships earmarked for minority and women students are needed to provide ?diversity? to the campus community. This claim is insulting to members of such groups. The scholarships and programs were never designed to enable people to attend CMU who otherwise could not ? all of them have been and are still need-blind.
They make the argument that removing these programs will send the students to other universities which retain such programs. They take something outside of a student?s control, be it sex or race, and turn it into a commodity to be fought for. Such narrow definitions of diversity devalue the individual, effectively calling all members of a particular race or sex equally diverse.
By opening the scholarships to all races and sexes, CMU acknowledges that the intellectual and philosophical diversity that all universities seek can be found in people of any race or sex. Students who earn the new race- and gender-blind scholarships can be proud to count themselves among the University?s best, not just the best within the arbitrarily narrowed categories.
Similar changes have been made to programs in many other schools, such as Yale, Amherst, and St. Louis University, and it is likely that this type of universal access to earned opportunities will continue to be made at other universities, as admissions officers realize that full equity in enrollment is imperative to intellectual diversity.
Carnegie Mellon should stand proud of what it has done, and not be afraid to explain to those who would prefer backward progress why such actions are necessary.