Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTHUSC) School of Medicine will stop considering race or ethnicity when selecting candidates for admission, part of an agreement with the U.S. Education Department’s civil rights office.
The university’s president signed the agreement last month, 14 years after the department began investigating a complaint by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a think tank that opposes affirmative action.
The decision was effective March 1, with a deadline of Sept. 1 to revise admissions and recruitment materials, according to the agreement.
“The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine is committed to a diverse and inclusive medical education and experience while working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,” school officials said in a statement.
The medical school had been considering race as one factor in admission since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the practice in a 2003 decision in a case involving the University of Michigan Law School. In that decision, in the case of Grutter vs. Bollinger, the court said the school had a compelling interest in achieving diversity.
The medical school defended its use of race in a letter to the civil rights office, saying “that its institutional goal to prepare health professions students for an increasingly diverse workforce and patient population requires a student body that is sufficiently diverse to serve the particular needs of the diverse populations … [they] will be called upon to serve.”
However, the Education Department’s civil rights office had been concerned that the school’s policies still violated civil rights law.
TTUHSC signed the agreement “in an effort to resolve this matter and focus on educating future health care providers,” Eric Bentley, vice chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, wrote in a February letter to the civil rights office.
Doing so “does not constitute an admission by TTUHSC of a violation” of any law enforced by the civil rights office, the school said in the agreement resolution.
The agreement allows the medical school to notify the civil rights office that it will reconsider using race as a factor in admissions if it believes the diversity of its student body diminishes.
“I believe the entire academic medical school community and the (Association of American Medical Colleges), who have been champions for the importance of diversity for the future of health care in the United States, will support our efforts to attain the diversity necessary at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as we work with the OCR,” Steven L. Berk, MD, dean of the school of medicine, said in a letter to faculty, staff, and students . “The School of Medicine remains committed to ensuring a diverse student population in order to effectively fulfill our core mission of providing health care for the people of West Texas and beyond.”
In a statement, The University of Texas System, which includes five medical schools, says all of its schools and programs “use admissions criteria that comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s guidance in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003).”
“Periodically, each school or program (including our medical schools) reviews whether, and to what extent, it should revise these criteria to conform to changes in the law,” the statement said. “Texas Tech’s agreement with the federal government does not change the law or our commitment to regularly review our policies.”