On Sept. 27 The Post reported that the University of Virginia Board of Visitors had unofficially decided to base admissions exclusively on nonracial factors [Metro]. Forty years ago such a decision would have been hailed as a progressive step toward a society in which individuals are judged on their merits rather than their skin color or genetic background.

Today the university's faculty senate has declared race-based evaluations "both appropriate and justified." Even Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and U.-Va. faculty member, demands that black students be treated differently. What has happened to the equality movement?

When I arrived at Virginia in the 1980s, students were protesting the university's South African investments because of apartheid. Eventually pressures, both internal and external, drove out South Africa's racialist socialism, and the decent part of the world celebrated. Of course, those policies were deemed "both appropriate and justified" by some until they were dismantled and reason and compassion overruled racialism and cowardice. That, it seems, is how progress works.

That appears to be how it will work in Charlottesville, too. Although some demand that nothing change until victims stand up, demand equal treatment and wait years for judicial vindication, the board of visitors is not that cowardly. It should be saluted for breathing life into the dream of equality that animated progressive students 15 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years ago and drafters of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution 135 years ago. The equality movement is alive and well. The University of Virginia Faculty Senate just isn't part of it.

KELLY R. YOUNG

Arlington