Not everyone on the UW-Madison campus is a fan of the university's "holistic" admissions policy.

That's the gist of a strongly worded email I received over the weekend from UW-Madison physics professor Marshall Onellion (see below).

Last week a good number of people on campus — from students to faculty to top administrators — spent a significant amount of time and energy"> pushing back against a conservative think tank's">report that purports to show whites and Asians aren't getting a fair crack at being admitted to Wisconsin's flagship institution of higher education.

The university put out">this news release on Sept. 13 responding to "attacks" on its diversity efforts by the Center for Equal Opportunity, and on Thursday interim Chancellor David Ward released this letter noting that the "university remains firmly committed to enrolling a highly diverse student body — that means recruiting not only students from ethnic minorities, but those from rural Wisconsin, first-generation college students, women in the sciences and other groups. When making admissions decisions, UW-Madison uses holistic processes for undergraduate, graduate and professional schools that take into account a range of factors. University officials are confident these practices are constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that say race is a permissible factor when part of a holistic admissions process. We know that enrolling students of all cultures and backgrounds improves the learning environment at UW-Madison and prepares everyone to be competitive in an increasingly multicultural world."

"I don't actually object to any admissions policy as long as I know what it is," Onellion said in a short phone conversation Monday evening. "Right now, I don't believe you or I know what the UW admissions policy is. If David Ward says this (CEO) report is wrong in some way, then tell us what is wrong and tell us what the actual facts are. And then you and I and everybody else can form our individual opinions about what we agree and disagree with. But right now, we don't know what the facts are."

Following is Onellion's email to the Cap Times. I removed the name of a student he singles out, but otherwise the letter is as the professor sent it:

I write to oppose the attempt by David Ward and the student thugs to suppress information on UW's admission policies. I quote David Ward"> as reported 9/13/11 in the (Wisconsin State Journal): " ... UW-Madison uses a ‘holistic' admissions process, taking into account a range of factors, including grades, test scores, activities, leadership and more. ... Any student who is accepted at UW-Madison is here because he or she has the potential and the capacity to succeed. No one is admitted solely because of race or ethnicity."

David, this is a fair, but not great, attempt to push the discussion from whether UW is a publicly funded discriminatory organization, discriminating against the children of Wisconsin, onto generalities that, true or not, are irrelevant. As a scientist, you should be more honest. Have you been an administrator so long as to lose all integrity? If you have integrity, look at the numbers and report to the UW community and the state what the facts are. If you have the facts — facts, David, not opinions prettied up like putting lipstick on a pig — that the "holistic" admissions approach resulted in a higher percentage of African-American/Latino admissions because African American/Latino applicants had better non-grade, non-test score records, then present the evidence. Do not insult us with irrelevant generalities.

I now quote ... one of the student thugs who illegally disrupted and threatened a peaceful assembly of citizens trying to learn the facts, as"> reported by the (Wisconsin State Journal): "I took it as a slap in the face and an insult, almost presuming that none of us worked hard and just got here because of the color of our skin. I think that's a huge presumption and assumption."

(To that student), I neither know nor care how hard you, or any other student worked to get here. The point at issue, in case you are incapable of understanding the situation, is whether UW Madison as a publicly funded institution is or is not officially discriminating against Wisconsin children and their parents. Unlike you — it seems — I have read both reports, the one on undergraduate admission and the other on Law School admission. Nowhere — NOWHERE — do I find any "presumption and assumption" (your words) about you, or any other individual student, getting to UW. Instead, I find a report analyzing data that UW provided and concluding there is systemic, official discrimination. If the report is wrong — read it and rebut it. Factually. While rebutting the reports, do please try not to act like a thug — disrupting peaceful assemblies. I would have thought that three years of learning at UW would have taught you that much — but apparently not.

Marshall Onellion
Professor of physics, UW Madison

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