The former dean at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, in one of his last acts before becoming a federal judge, refused to reappoint the school: special minority admissions committee, calling it a "potential litigation breeder."
At Stanford University Medical School in California, the faculty voted to eliminate a special admissions committee that for 10 years had screened minority applicants.
At Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, minority students no longer will be selected by a separate committee, but the number of students chosen on a "subjective" basis will increase.
At Rutgers University Law School at Newark, N.J., the faculty voted to enlarge its minority admissions program-but opened it to disadvantaged whites.
These actions, which often followed bitter campus debates, reflect the turmoil in professional schools across the country in the wake of June's Supreme Court decision in the Allan Bakke case.
The court, in a complex ruling, said that a special admissions program at the University of California Medical School at Davis that set aside 16 of 100 openings for minority students discriminated against Bakke, a white engineer who was twice denied entry.
At the same time, however, the court upheld the principle of affirmative action.
Since then, university administrators have been trying to turn court doctrine into defensible practice.
"I think we all want to do the very best we can to be fair to affirmative action without stepping over the line the way the Davis medical school did." said Covey E. Oliver, acting dean of the law school at the University of Pennsylvania. It was Olvier's predecessor, Louis H. Pollack, who decided not to reappoint the school's minority admissions committee.
Schools that have eliminated special admissions committees or programs say they have not turned their backs on affirmative action.
"There are people who don't like the decision we reached, for a variety of reason," said Wayne State Dean Donald H. Gordon. "But it is clear from the stated goals of the faculty that affirmative action remains a goal."
Some minority students fear their numbers will be reduced by the changes.
"The trend seems to be that most graduate schools are reorganizing their programs, and in some cases that has taken very negative turns," said Victor Goode, head of the National Conference of Black Lawyer which has established a center in New York to monitor changes in affirmative action
The action at Rutgers-Newark "stands out as a positive solution," Goode said, but in other places "it appears there will be severe reductions in minority programs."
The Rutgers-Newark debate was considered important because many university were watching to see how the school, which had one of the most aggressive affirmative action programs in the country, would react to the court's ruling.
Dean Peter Summons believed the school's program, which set aside 25 percent of the law school's slots for minority students, was illegal in the wake of the court action. University lawyers agreed.
But some faculty, among them leading constitutional scholars, objected, and angry students protested that the school was using the Bakke decision as an excuse to abandon its commitment to desegregating the legal profession.
When the faculty voted last month, it enlarged the program to cover 30 percent of the openings, but in a significant how to the court, it opened the reserved slots to disadvantaged whites.
Wayne State Law Choll had three categories of admissions. A regular committee chose students who qualified on the basis of test scores and undergraduate grades, and tow subcommittees chose minority and "special circumstance" students. The faculty voted to merge the three groups and expand from 10 percent to 25 percent the number of slots previously set aside for "special circumstance" students.
The Stanford faculty was most concerned about the reaction of minority students on campus to its altered admissions policy, but students have taken a "wait and see" attitude, according to spokesman Spyros Andreopoulos The faculty dispelled its minority admissions committee and enlarged its regular committee by adding more minority members.
Andreopoulos said the former goal of 20 percent disadvantaged students in each class has usually been surpassed with most of the disadvantaged being black, Indian or American Indian. With that classification eliminated, and despite faculty commitment to diversity, Andreopoulos said, "We don't know what the outcome will be."
The University of North Carolina Law School took another approach in revising its admission procedures. The school will reserve about 25 percent of its slots for applicants who do not meet a minimum score based on grades and law school admissions tests. Race or ethnic origin will be used as criteria to fill the spaces, but seven other factors also will be considered.
The Pennsylvania Law School, where minorities make up about 10 percent of the student body, has a faculty-student committee examining ways to retain that percentage. The objective, Acting Dean Oliver said, is to avoid "the ultimate disgrace"-having its program struck down by the Supreme Court.
But university law Prof. Ralph Smith said he finds the flurry of changes to escape legal challenges in the wake of the Bakke decision hasty and probably ineffective.
"If they abandon affirmative action completely, which they would have to do to avoid suits from the Bakkes of the world, they will expose themselves to litigation from the other side." Smith said. He said the "civil rights community willbe monitoring these actions, and I would not be surprised if they found it necessary to bring affirmative action suits."
But Harvard general counsel Daniel Steiner thinks it would be "foolish not to review procedures for minority admissions after the Bakke decision." He has advised, to the objections of students, that the Harvard Medical School eliminate the admissions subcommittee that has handled all minority applicants since 1968. A report is pending from faculty appointed to find alternatives.
Ironically, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. cited Harvard's admissions program favorably in his Bakke opinion.
"There is an apprehension among students that an alteration may result in reduction" in the number of minority students, said Harvard admissions director Oglesby Paul.
"We are in no way retreating" from the 20 percent miniority goal among approximately 165 admissions a year, he asserted.
But minority students at many professional schools remain skeptical. "They're trying to tell us you can (maintain affirmative action) without mentioning numbers," said Norman Epting. president of the Rutgers Black Law Students Association. "We think it's a ploy."