Originally created 02/11/00

Attorney critical of school's admissions policy



ATHENS, Ga. - Speaking to a group of college Republicans in Athens on Wednesday, the Atlanta attorney suing the University of Georgia over its race preference said the odor of affirmative action is getting "stronger and stronger" on college campuses.

"Right now, access has everything to do with your color, your gender and your national origin," A. Lee Parks told about 100 students, gathered at the Tate Student Center. That "old system is dead on arrival. Unfortunately Dr. Adams just won't bury the body. The stink is getting stronger and stronger."

A federal judge granted class-action status last year to a group of plaintiffs represented by Mr. Parks who say they would have been admitted to the university last fall if they were black or male. Mr. Parks said the number of plaintiffs seeking monetary damages in the case has increased to 18.

At issue in Mr. Parks' suit is the university's mode of admitting borderline applicants. They make up about 25 percent of freshman admissions and get extra points for being minorities, as do applicants whose parents are alumni or who live in rural or poor areas of the state. University of Georgia President Michael Adams dropped a slight gender preference in the entrance process, but he has vowed to fight in court to keep race preferences in place.

"You are being reduced to a number, without ever being interviewed," Mr. Parks said. "What color are you? Did your daddy go to Georgia? ... They're computer projections of what administrators want the student body to look like.

"Part of the process is to dehumanize the individual," he said.

Mr. Parks said supporters of affirmative action have to wake up to the fact that the Constitution doesn't allow the government to distribute money, business contracts or college seats based on an individual's race, gender or national origin. Individual rights must come first, regardless of color.

Mr. Parks is also part of a team representing the Southeastern Legal Foundation in its controversial lawsuit targeting Atlanta minority business contracts.

"Should you get in here because you're a Republican? Should you get in here because you're a Democrat?" he asked students.

Shalena Cook, a first-year law student at the university, said she found some common ground with Mr. Parks on Wednesday: She said both she and the attorney want to see new entrance methods in place at the flagship university.

"I would say the system we currently use is flawed," Ms. Cook said. "I would like to see it replaced with something more effective. We know race and gender are suspect classifications."