New UVM President Worries About Affirmative Action Case

02/24/12 5:50PM By Kirk Carapezza
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AP/Toby Talbot
Thomas Sullivan, the new president of the University of Vermont, was introduced at the Statehouse Thursday. Sullivan says weakening affirmative action would have profound consequences for UVM.

(Host) The University of Vermont's new president says he's deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court could soon erode the national policy on affirmative action.

He says such a move could effectively strip public institutions like UVM of their right to take race into account when trying to boost their minority enrollment.

VPR's Kirk Carapezza reports.

(Carapezza) Thomas Sullivan says for months he's been watching as a number of cases have cropped up in lower federal courts. And as a law professor he knew the nation's highest court might select one.

(Sullivan) "which would be a test case to challenge Grutter v. Bollinger, which is the current U.S. Supreme Court case approving of affirmative action as a discretionary opportunity on college campuses."

(Carapezza) Then on Tuesday, the day before he was appointed UVM's next president, the Supreme Court confirmed Sullivan's concern by agreeing to hear a case involving race-conscious-admissions at the University of Texas.

(Sullivan) "I firmly believe that that national policy is promoting the public good, and if it is to go away, shame on America."

(Carapezza) Sullivan says eliminating or weakening affirmative action would have profound consequences for UVM's effort to attract more students who wouldn't - or couldn't - otherwise attend Vermont's flagship institution.

Sullivan says racial diversity will be a top priority for him in his new role as president. Because many UVM students agree there's room for improvement.

For VPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza.

VPR Series: UVM At A Crossroads 

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