Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is Diversity Working with Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is now put to rest, as it was voted down for Michigan colleges. The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, a key decision in an unfolding legal and political battle nationally over affirmative action. 

 Just how beneficial the ban will prove to be, either for those against or those in favor of affirmative action, remains to be seen

Basically, the principle of affirmative action is to promote societal equality through the preferential treatment of socio-economically disadvantaged people, those who historically have been disadvantaged due to oppression or slavery. Thus, supporters say the aim of affirmative action is to ensure racial diversity in education and employment.

Diversity is an encompassing value that includes racial diversity, and diversity working in principle, allows for the inclusion of minorities group: Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and American Native Indians.
On the other hand, giving preferrential treatment, or accommodating an individual on the basis of race, as a means to increase diversity in the society, should also not mean excluding those from the mainstream of society – but it is how critics of affirmative action strongly view it. The idea itself has brought on a negative connotation that seems to impede the active promotion of diversity working in schools and in the workplace.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s fierce defense of the affirmative action efforts such as the ones that helped move her from a Bronx housing project to the upper echelons of American law found renewed voice Tuesday in an impassioned dissent: “This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable,” Sotomayor wrote. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”   Read more at

The aforementioned article mentions about Sotomayor's highlighting her personal experience, as a Latina, of benefitting from affirmative action: The search for minorities to diversify student bodies in the 1970s won her invitations and scholarship offers from Ivy League schools she had only just learned existed.
What impact will this legal ban on affirmative action in the state of Michigan then have on the rest of the country and education system?
In a fast-moving legal landscape, selective colleges everywhere face pressure on a number of fronts to change how they admit students. The argument resonates at colleges and universities with a public mission.
“People are focusing on recruiting more low-income students. They do that because they believe in it,” said M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “But it also provides a contribution to diversity.” Read more at

States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities, the New York Times said in its reportThus, many fear the trend will continue. 

A study shows a similar finding, and concludes that bans on affirmative action have had detrimental effects on the representation of people of color in postsecondary education. Read more at

The Supreme Court decision, critics say, could bolster similar bans in seven other states – California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire – or impact decisions in states that are considering similar bans. Supporters of the affirmative action ban say that all races should be treated equally, and that giving special treatment to minorities is tantamount to discrimination. See more here  

Another report says that the ruling is viewed as unlikely to have a direct effect on admissions at Iowa's three public universities, which have affirmative action policies regarding employment, but do not consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. However, two representatives of minority groups in Iowa expressed concerns about the decision.
None of these debates over the fairness or unfairness of the ban on affirmative action reveals strong opposition to diversity working; however, it is likely there may be differing concepts on what diversity entails, and how it can truly be achieved. This is the reason affirmative action has always been a divisive factor. 
Letting diversity work remains an important value to keep in society, but it needs more than policy changes to make most sectors of society become more aware, open-minded, and ready to embrace it. 



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