It has been more than sixty years since the American public schools became integrated, but hidden documents reveal that the University of Texas played an instrumental role in creating a blueprint to slow down the monumental progress.
According to The Atlantic, hidden records in the university’s archive reveals the great length that Administrators went through to block the admittance of African Americans to the institution. In the documents, it’s revealed that the concept of standardized testing was introduced by UT as a means to block Black applicants after the proposal of utilizing a “gap year” or pushing for the attendance at neighboring HBCUs Prairie View A&M or Texas Southern University.
“If we want to exclude as many Negro undergraduates as possible,” UT’s then Admission Counselor wrote, “The University would be in a position to plead that it is acting in good faith to bring an end to segregation, and it should have some bearing with the courts in an attempt to postpone the admission of Negro students at the undergraduate level.”
The documents also show that a special committee was created to actively think of ways to keep African American students from being admitted while appearing to comply with federal law, their resolution-standardized testing.
According to records, the committee noted that if the 2,700-person freshman class was admitted according to state population proportions, 300 would be black; before highlighting that white UT freshmen had significantly higher aptitude-test scores than incoming freshmen at three Texas black colleges. A standardized-test cutoff “point of 72 would eliminate about 10% of UT freshmen and about 74% of Negroes,” the committee stated in a footnote. “Assuming the distributions are representative, this cutting point would tend to result in a maximum of 70 Negroes in a class of 2,700.”
“The historical record makes it clear that racism was a primary motivation in UT’s decision in the 1950s to begin testing applicants for admission,” Gary Susswein, a UT Austin spokesman told the publication. “Other explanations were given at the time, as standardized testing took root nationally and many universities moved away from open admissions to become more selective. But the ugly desire to keep out African American students was a major driver of that policy.”
Although the University of Texas has worked hard to overcome their racist past, the remnants of that racism continues to live on. Many people of color have argued for years regarding the racist intent behind standardized testing. In 2015, Washington State Senator Patty Murray stood on the Senate floor and called standardized testing a civil-rights issue.
“We know that if we don’t have ways to measure students’ progress,” Murray said. “If we don’t hold our states accountable, the victims will invariably be the kids from poor neighborhoods, children of color, and students with disabilities.”
Educators point out that the current tests used to measure student progress holds schools and teachers accountable but doesn’t measure actually learning and retention well at all. While the practice of testing has continued, many schools are moving to other ways to admit students without it. Today, at least three-fourths of UT’s freshmen from Texas continue to gain admission through the use of standardized testing, while other applicants receive what the university calls a “holistic review” that takes race and ethnicity into account along with grades, essays, leadership qualities, and numerous other factors, including standardized test scores.