Affirmative action in college admissions based on race is currently a hot debate. As the Supreme Court deliberates on the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, major changes in the way colleges are able to make admissions decisions may be fast approaching. The debate over race-based affirmative action raises many questions in education. Is the goal of affirmative action fairness or diversity? Can diversity be preserved without affirmative action? What are the consequences of less diverse universities on society as a whole? Should affirmative action instead be based on economic status? Is a discrimination gap still an issue? Should affirmative action also be extended to specialized high schools?
IEL hopes to foster a robust conversation among EPFP fellows on affirmative action. We have put together a few articles and commentaries that we have found illuminating. We encourage you to add others, and to use our blog space to share your perspective on this issue.
Big Business Backs Affirmative Action at Supreme Court Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek
Fifty-seven of America's biggest corporations say that the diversity of employees helps to boost sales. Diversity in higher education is the only way to obtain a properly qualified and diverse group. The stance of the corporations is that there should not be racial favoring, but that it should be one of the factors considered. It is believed that being a part of a diverse student body will prepare a future employee for the growing global workforce.
Base Affirmative Action on Income, Cynthia Tucker, The Wisconsin State Journal
Universities should begin to offer preferences to promising students from poor and working-class backgrounds. This practice would continue to draw racial diversity, but would focus on economic class. Focusing on class as the real divide in education would continue to impact minority students, whose families have been affected by a legacy of racism in the past, but would also reach many white students.
Study: Race-neutral admissions can work Justin Pope, Education Week
A new study shows evidence that public universities from nine states that don't use affirmative action can still bring meaningful diversity to their campuses. Aggressive outreach, de-emphasizing standardized tests, and affirmative action based on class instead of race improves minority representation. However, the enrollment of minorities at elite institutions continues to be a problem.
Affirmative action still necessary Lindsay Lee, The Daily Beacon
Opponents of affirmative action argue that it is exactly the type of discrimination that it aims to end. However, without some sort of boost, there is no way that minorities can overcome the discriminatory gap. Affirmative action increases diversity, which increases tolerance.
Rethinking Affirmative Action David Leonhardt, The New York Times
The original idea behind affirmative action was that after years of oppression, it was unfair to expect minorities to compete with the majority. However, defenders of affirmative action in the University of Texas case have made the argument that its value lies in providing diversity on campuses. This shift from a focus on fairness to a focus on diversity has made it more difficult to defend legally. The question at hand is what focus affirmative action will need to have to survive.
Affirmative Action's Unlikely Allies Matthew Johnson, History News Network
Those supporting affirmative action and the University of Texas include university presidents, corporate executives, and military officials. Hiring companies which once saw race-conscious hiring as a chore, now see it as a primary goal of business because it allows new ideas and perspectives to enter the workforce. The military has found that the use affirmative action in placing officer positions has decreased racial tensions. These groups argue that affirmative action is a compelling state interest.
A Liberal Critique of Racial Preferences Richard D. Kahlenberg, The Wall Street Journal
A ruling against affirmative action would ideally give birth to affirmative action based on economic status. If the goal is to create a system that considers academic accomplishments despite obstacles, considering class would be ideal.
Educating for Democracy: Why not Affirmative Action for ‘Elite' High Schools?Joel Shatzky, The Huffington Post
The advantages of diversity in higher education could be applied to New York City's specialized high schools. The use of a single factor, a test, to determine accesses does not fully assess academic potential and black and Latino student enrollment in these schools has declined. The question is whether it is fair that cultural and economic advantages lead to special preparation for exams. The high schools would likely be enriched by including a diverse student population.