A Preliminary Analysis of African American College Students' Perceptions of Racial Preferences and Affirmative Action in Making Admissions Decisions at a Predominantly White University

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to survey African American College students' perceptions of racial preferences and Affirmative Action in making admissions decisions at a predominantly White university. 422 questionnaires were sent out to African American College students at a large, urban, public, comprehensive research university in the southern region of the United States. 400 questionnaires were completed for a response rate of 95%. The data revealed that a majority of the respondents felt that race preferences should be used in making admission decisions at predominantly White colleges and universities. More significantly, 315 (79%) and 85 (21%) of all the respondents strongly agreed or agreed that Affirmative Action should continue as part of admissions decisions.

Affirmative Action is a phrase that has its roots in centuries of old English administrative practice to ensure justice for all (Skrentny, 1996). According to Skrentny, the English (British) administration, as the king at the time saw it, was favoring just a section of the masses and others who were equally contributing to the up keep of the king. Engelbert Ssekasozi (1999) who affirms this historical argument says the people in the empire began to complain to their immediate supervisors and the core of the British (Empire) administration got wind of the injustices. However, both authors failed to give in-depth analysis of this historical argument.

In the United States existing literature on Affirmative Action is not clear on its origin and the precise date when Affirmative Action started is still a conundrum. Nevertheless most of the literature pin the origin of Affirmative Action in the United States from 1935. Skrentny (1996) and Tomasson, Crosby, and Herzberger (2001) believe that this, Affirmative Action, basic legal English concept that opposes rigid legal rules that produces harsh results found its way into American administrative system in 1935. The phrase, Affirmative Action, they contend appeared as part of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (See Dept. of Labor fact sheet, 9517). As they put it, Affirmative Action meant, "that an employer who was found to be discriminating against union members or union organizers would have to stop discriminating, and also take Affirmative Action to place those victims where they would have been without the discrimination" (Skrentny 1996, p.6). Oral historical tradition also has it that Affirmative Action caught the attention of the American administration during World War 11 when the former Soviet Union detected that the U.S. Army was not reflective of the population Prior to the 1960s Affirmative Action seemed to play well within labor organizations, White America never complained that Affirmative Action was a bad public policy. It became a controversial policy when the Civil Rights movement used it to demand equal justice for minorities or all Colored people in America.

The civil rights period in the 1960s also put a new twist on Affirmative Action, which came to mean much more than just justice for the poor but a very politically loaded term that got equal attention at the time just like any other legislation. According to Peter Hall, a political scientist, the term became a model and policy paradigm; a way of seeing and constructing the world that specifies what is real and important (Kuhn, 1970). Few U.S presidents acted courageously to eliminate or minimize racism in America through the Affirmative Action policy. For example, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which ensured a colorblind view of American society and the world. Another U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson, revised this policy by issuing Executive Order 11246, which dealt specifically with firms under contract with the federal government not to discriminate (Raskin 1996, Sadler 1996, and Tomasson, Crosby, and Hertzberger 2001). The order says, in part, any firm that receives money from the federal government must "take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin" (Skrentny, 1996, p. …