As the U.S. Supreme Court was deciding on the future of affirmative action, officials of United Methodist-related colleges and universities were wrapping their heads around increasing the presence of minorities on campus, UMNS reported on 25.
The court decided to agree with the use of racial preference to promote diversity in university admissions on June 24. In their 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the University of Michigan Laws School's considerable treatment on disadvantaged minority students is legel but in a 6-3 vote, they abolished the use of a point system to ensure diversity in the university's undergraduate admissions.
The educational leaders attending the United Methodist Institute of Higher Education, held in June 22-24, were satisfied with the decision and commented that it affirmed the United Methodist Church's commitment to college diversity. They said, "even the law was not passed, the church related schools would continue to make preferential treatment of minorities in order to maintain and even increase diversity."
The United Methodist Church has 124 colleges and universities, including Duke, Emory and Southern Methodist University. The church also has 13 seminaries and operates Africa University in Zimbabwe.
"The Supreme Court has affirmed that affirmative action can play a role in higher education and our action has been reaffirmed," said David Beckley, president of Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss.
"There is a difference between legal and moral responsibility. The church-related colleges and universities are responsible for transforming the culture of this world with the spirit of the gospel," the Rev. James Noseworthy, president of Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn.
The affirmative action is typically for African Americans. Historically in the United States, black colleges and universities are about 35% of the whole institutions. However only 30% of African Americans have obtained bachelor degrees.
The Rev. Joreatha M. Capers, director of the Black College Fund of the United Methodist Church, pointed out that the Supreme Court's support of affirmative action ensures access and equal opportunity for all Americans in their pursuit of quality education and the American dream.
"The church-related institutions must approach to the poor and estranged people," she said.
Walter Broadnax, president of Clark Atlanta University said "we should stand strong to open the classrooms to students who really desire to learn."
"I hope that the United Methodist institutions constantly provide qualified educations to all students without any discrimination," said Kenneth Hoyt, president of Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J.
He added "the diversity rate is 64% in small colleges while it is 15-20% in the national average. That means we have succeeded in diversity."
"However the work of fairness, equity and justice is not done. The church-related institutions should do what we know to be right," Ronald Swain, senior advisor to the president at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
In addition the leaders gathered in the institute, discussed more on trends impacting higher education among ethnic groups including African-Americans.
Broadnax reported that the number of black youth attending college is declining. Only 35% of the adults above the age of 25 have completed at least four years of college.
"in 1999, 60% of all black students enrolled in the colleges were women. In 2000, 791,000 black men were in prisons and county jails," he said.
He urged that the educators in higher education must have improved strategies to address the growing imbalance.
Vicka Bell-Robinson, area hall director at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., emphasized that the United colleges and universities must reveal the Wesleyan values so that they can succeed in obtaining and recruiting diverse students."