Gov. Bill Owens said Monday that he objects to using race as a factor in university admissions and would sign legislation prohibiting the use of race in deciding who gets into Colorado universities.
Owens' comment prompted two high-ranking Republican state senators to say they are considering introducing legislation in the 2004 session barring the use of race in admissions, despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The court on June 23 upheld the use of race as one of many factors in admissions in a case involving the University of Michigan law school.
"I oppose the use of race as a factor in admissions," Owens told The Denver Post during a luncheon to welcome the Brazilian ambassador to the United States.
Earlier in the day, Owens made a similar comment on a radio talk show in response to a caller's question. "I would sign a bill that said in Colorado you couldn't use race as a factor in admissions," the governor said on the air. "I do oppose quotas and regret the Supreme Court decision."
Owens later clarified that the legislation would have to be crafted to his liking before he would sign it.
Officials from the University of Colorado, the state's largest public university, declined to comment on the governor's remark or on possible legislation.
Republican Sens. John Andrews, president of the Senate, and Jim Dyer, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that they agree with the governor's position and will work to ensure that race is not a factor in admissions or any other facet of state government.
"I agree with Justice (Clarence) Thomas what when the law is anything other than colorblind that the intended beneficiaries end up being harmed and society itself is harmed," said Andrews, a lawmaker from Centennial. "I will give high priority next year to making sure that Colorado law is colorblind whether in relation to university admissions or police profiling or any other activity of government whatsoever."
Dyer, a Littleton lawmaker, said the state "should be absolutely colorblind" in admissions, in hiring and in conducting other business such as the rewarding of contracts.
As to scholarships, he said they should be based on need and merit. "It should not divide people by race and ethnicity," Dyer said.
Democratic Sen. Ken Gordon of Denver said he was puzzled by the governor's position.
"I can't think why anyone would oppose the university's attempt to have diversity in its student body," Gordon said. "It's not like the Bible says that SAT scores are the only legitimate method of evaluating prospective students."
On June 23, the nation's highest court voted 5-4 to support Michigan's use of race as one of many factors in its law-school admissions procedures.
But by a 6-3 vote, the justices struck down the university's use of a point system that factors race in undergraduate admissions.
At the time, CU president Elizabeth Hoffman praised the court's decision, saying that "a diverse student body is a compelling state interest" and is a goal underlying the university's policies and practices.
CU spokeswoman Michele McKinney said Monday that school officials were still reviewing the decision and planned to attend a program in Michigan later this month on the recent ruling. She declined to comment further.
Race is one of many factors used at CU and other state colleges and universities to admit students who do not score high enough on admissions tests.
Attorney General Ken Salazar joined 21 other states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in February supporting the University of Michigan admissions program.
In a June 23 statement, Salazar said he was pleased that the Supreme Court "recognized the importance of diversity, especially in the realm of higher education, in reaffirming that government has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity on campuses."