Two New Task Forces Formed

March 11, 2004

Mark Miester
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Better intergration of athletics into the life of the university and increasing diversity at the undergraduate level are the goals of two new university task forces.

campusThe Tulane University Task Force on Athletics was established to develop a specific set of recommendations to ensure the integration of athletics into the academic and social life of the institution, as well as assuring that the university is compliant with all NCAA regulations.

The 19-person committee is charged with developing a process to ensure that NCAA requirements are being met, reported, certified and accurately communicated throughout the university.

The Special Task Force on Undergraduate Student Body Diversity was formed to assess the past history of diversity of the undergraduate student body with the ultimate aim of developing a series of recommendation about how to increase diversity.

The 11-person committee will focus its efforts on a multi-year analysis of student enrollment across all classifications, a discussion of what diversity means to Tulane and its educational mission, an assessment of the benefits to the institution of racial and other types of diversity, a definition of the critical mass of students that might define diversity, and a study of the impact of diversity on admission, housing and financial aid, including how Tulane has managed these issues in the past and how it should proceed in the future.

According to James MacLaren, associate provost, the athletics committee was established at the urging of athletics director Rick Dickson primarily to address changing NCAA Division I requirements. New Division I guidelines call for student-athletes to make steady progress toward their degrees each year to maintain eligibility. That progress is measured each semester by both grade-point average and the percentage of degree earned.

As a result, new monitoring and reporting processes need to be developed to ensure that Tulane remains in compliance. "Some of it is really bureaucratic in a sense because our standards are probably tougher than some of our competitors," says MacLaren. "If changes are needed to be made internally to systems, the task force includes the people who have a working knowledge of the systems and can help make the changes."

While putting into place a system to keep Tulane in compliance with NCAA regulations is the primary focus of the task force, MacLaren says the committee also hopes to look into ways to better integrate athletes with the rest of the university.

"We're looking at ways to bring the student-athletes as a community into the wider university community," MacLaren says. "We'll collect data from other places and from our own institution to see whether we're servicing these students well."

The Special Task Force on Undergraduate Student Diversity takes one facet of last year's task force on diversity--the undergraduate student body--and examines it in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision regarding affirmative action at the University of Michigan. In that decision, the court upheld the University of Michigan's right to use race as a consideration in admissions in order to achieve the goal of diversity.

Prior to the University of Michigan decision, Tulane was bound by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' Hopwood decision, which effectively barred universities in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi from using race as a consideration in admissions.

"If we take the Michigan case to have set the standard, it is possible for universities in particular circumstances as outlined in the Michigan decision to use race-sensitive information in the admissions process," says Ana Lopez, associate provost. According to Lopez, the Michigan decision frees Tulane to more aggressively pursue the goal of undergraduate diversity, and developing recommendations on how best to achieve that goal is the job of the task force.

"Right now, we are at the bottom of a very elite list of schools," says Lopez. "When you look at other universities in the South that were also limited by Hopwood, we're about the same. Which doesn't mean that that's a good thing."

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000