By TAMARA SPENCE
As competition for admission increases, some students grumble that affirmative action policies are costing qualified white students the chance to attend BYU.
“I know that BYU has some sort of affirmative action program, especially where black students are concerned,” said Charisse Lowe, a 20-year-old film student from South Africa.
BYU administrators, however, deny that some students are admitted based solely on the color of their skin or ethnic background. “No one gets in simply because they are Asian, Hispanic, Native American or African American,” said Jennifer Lieberenz, school relations office manager and assistant to the director of school relations.
Lieberenz said that BYU doesn’t give preference to any student based on race or gender. “Everybody jumps over the same hurdles. However, some hurdles are worth more to some people than others,” she said.
Contrary to what some may think, Lieberenz is quick to point out that multicultural and Caucasian students are considered in the same application pool. She said she feels it is important people know criteria for admission must be met by all students.
“Three things can happen when we get an application. A person can be automatically accepted based on their academic superiority, as long as they have a bishop’s interview. They can be placed on hold or they can be automatically denied,” Lieberenz said.
However, in the world of BYU admission no one is automatically denied. While the computer may make an initial recommendation for denial, every application is read by an admission counselor who will consider any special circumstances, Lieberenz said.
“We have a computer that re-weighs each applicant’s (grade point average) and takes into consideration their ACT score and the student’s percentage of college-prep courses, such as advanced placement math, science or history classes. But this is all the computer does, it doesn’t make the final decision. It only makes a recommendation,” Lieberenz said.
Each application is read by three admissions officers who take into account factors other than a student’s academic standing. “When we do a read, our decision will take into consideration seminary, extracurricular activities, essay and letters of recommendation,” Lieberenz said.
While Lieberenz said many multicultural students are automatically accepted by the computer based on their good academic standing, some ethnic students may be placed in a lower hold group because of their grades.
“Athletes must have a minimum of 17 on their ACT to be considered for admission, so is also the case for ethnic students. However, the (multicultural students’) possibility of getting in with such a low score is very shaky,” Lieberenz said.
Even though all students must meet the minimum criteria set for admission, BYU does make an effort to recruit minorities and diversify its campus, regardless of a person’s academic background.
“You do get extra points in the admission system if you’re a multicultural student. The reason we do this is because we want a more diversified student body. Some of these students don’t have the same opportunities, so they shouldn’t be penalized because of their background,” Lieberenz said.
Nolan Reed, associate dean of admissions, is especially interested in recruiting Native American students to BYU. “My office plays a cooperative role with the multicultural office. We go out and visit schools on reservations and meet with Native American alumni,” Reed said.
Reed’s primary role is to talk to these students about possible scholarship opportunities, services and facilities BYU can offer them and any information related to the school. Reed notes, however, that while he may bring these students’ applications to the admission office, he does not personally decide whether they will be admitted.
“Even though the admission office has the final say if these students get in or not, I think it’s important to continue to recruit ethnic minorities. We have a charge to prepare young students to go out and service the church. There shouldn’t be an advantage for any one ethnic group to come here,” Reed said.
Vernon Heperi, director of Multicultural Student Services, is also involved in recruiting multicultural students. Heperi said he feels it is important for students to realize that while diversity is something BYU wants, “it’s not just a matter of bringing people of color to the university.”
He said “we need to understand cultural differences. People also need to understand that diversity is not just a color issue, it deals with disability, women’s issues and diversity within each race,” Heperi said.
Heperi notes that the multicultural office is there to help everyone, because everyone benefits from increased diversity on campus. “The purpose of the office is to assist students who come from various cultures, to develop them intellectually and spiritually,” Heperi said.
Responding to student concerns about reverse discrimination through quotas Lieberenz said that “There are no such things as quotas at BYU. Chances are slim to none that a non-qualified multicultural student will displace a qualified white student for admission. At the same time we want to give everyone an opportunity to come here and there is nothing wrong with trying to accomplish this goal.