Admissions files private, Wis. appeals court rules

WISCONSIN ' The Center for Equal Opportunity, a national advocacy group that opposes racial preferences in college admissions, is appealing a court decision that supported the University of Wisconsin System in refusing to share their applicants' race information and test scores for research purposes.

The Center sued the university for denying access to admissions information of applicants to the medical and law schools. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals for the Fourth District cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Osborn v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, No. 00-2861, 2001 WL 988819 (Wisc. Ct. App. Aug. 30, 2001), appeal docketed, No. 99 CV 2958 (Wisc. Sup. Ct.), which upheld the university's refusal to release the race information and standardized test scores of enrolled students, as well as students whose applications were denied.

Roger Clegg, attorney for the Center, claimed there were no privacy interests at stake because names could be redacted from the records.

'They're only looking to get GPAs, SAT scores and race information ... and once personally identifiable information has been removed from the records then FERPA does not preclude the release of the remaining information,' the Center's lawyer, Dan Kelly said.

The Center uses the records to analyze the admissions procedures of universities, looking for evidence that minorities are given preference during the admissions process.

Appeals court Judge Charles P. Dykman, the lone dissenting opinion, disagreed with the broad definition of a student record. The racial considerations the university system employs in its admissions process 'is not an issue which should be kept secret from the people of the state of Wisconsin,' he wrote.

'Under Wisconsin law, decisions made in the court of appeals have a statewide effect. If the state supreme court denies the petition no one will be granted access to student records at any Wisconsin university.

reports, Winter 2001-02