The House today declined to abolish the law that requires a portion of admissions at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine be allocated by congressional district. The vote was 46-36, with three voting present.
The bill by Rep. Justin Boyd and Sen. Bart Hester, both Republicans, would repeal the law that says the first 70 percent of 150 students in the freshman class at UA be apportioned among the four congressional districts.
Rep. Deborah Ferguson opposed the bill. She said it would harm rural areas who depend on students from their parts of the state to settle there after med school and that it would harm minorities. She also said no student who is admitted without qualifications. She said it was possible that someone would be denied admission who had a higher score than some admitted by congressional district, but said truly highly qualified students should easily qualify for at-large slots.
Rep. Steve Magie, a doctor, noted that if sufficient qualified students don’t apply from a congressional district, no one is admitted and the slot is open to others. Magie said the change would put “more and more and more” students from the 2nd District in med school, at the expense of others.
Rep. Vivian Flowers said the change would worsen an already-difficult problem to fill jobs around the state.
Rep. Aaron Pilkington, a Clarksville Republican, said he was “tired of settling.” He said only the top applicants should be accepted.
Rep. John Walker said he hadn’t intended to speak, but was prompted by Pilkington’s remark to speak. He said some people have high test scores and grades, but no sensitivity toward others. “There’s always somebody better than you or me.,” he said. But that’s not the sole consideration. Other factors should be considered. “You don’t just go ahead and judge somebody just because he or she has the best test score.” It’s important to look at “multiple selection criteria, including geographic.”
For someone to say they are superior because of higher test scores is, said Walker, “sanctimonious, supercilious, self-serving and discriminatory.”
Boyd said he thought diversity was still possible, but the law doesn’t give flexibility to the admissions board. He went to pharmacy school and said the UA pharmacy school managed diversity without a requirement in state law. “This is an archaic law that needs to be repealed.”