Gatekeeping in Social Work Education:
Achieving Diversity and Excellence
Wanda D. Bracy
The need to increase the number of professionally educated persons of color has been discussed in the social work literature for several decades. Much of the literature in social work education on the recruitment and retention of students of color was published more than twenty-five years ago. While this literature has been primarily concerned with graduate education in social work, many of the techniques and strategies can be applied to undergraduate education and remain relevant today. However, since this literature was published, attitudes and laws regarding the use of racial preferences in admissions have changed. While there is extensive literature on this topic in higher education, social work education has been relatively quiet on this issue.
Those who want to end affirmative action believe the use of racial preferences is unfair and unjust and represents outright reverse discrimination. Opponents of affirmative action believe that quantitative measures (standardized test scores and grade point averages [GPA]) determine qualification for admission, and they want admissions decisions to be almost exclusively based on these measures. They believe that the use of racial preference represents social injustice because this practice permits less qualified persons to be admitted over more qualified ones. Qualification, of course, is determined by where an applicant ranks on these quantitative measures.