Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

In Defense of Diversity: Videoconference Examines the Anti-Affirmative Action Movement

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

In Defense of Diversity: Videoconference Examines the Anti-Affirmative Action Movement

Article excerpt

I find it interesting that it wasn't until the issue of race was introduced in the admission process that [preferences] became ax issue. It's not until you talk about race that we're seeing these kinds of legal challenges."

Washington -- Affirmative action, racial preferences, and reverse discrimination seem to be fighting words these days. And while no blows were struck, panel members duked it out over the impact these catch phrases will have on students of color at Black Issues in Higher Education's video-conference, "Recruitment and Admissions Dilemmas in Higher Education."

Moderated by Court TV anchor Carol Randolph, the six-member panel considered what's next for students of color in light of court and voter decisions which have banned the use of racial preferences at colleges and universities in both California and Texas. The recent drop in numbers of minority students at campuses in these two states has those who support diversity concerned about the fate of minority students across the country.

"The task before colleges and admissions officers has always been how to balance desires for equity and excellence and how to advance them both simultaneously," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Provost Dr. Nancy Cantor countered that diversity and excellence are not necessarily two different things. At Michigan, as diversity has gone up, so has excellence, she said.

"Our students of color bring exceptional qualities to our campuses," Cantor said.

Cantor knows all too well about America's controversy concerning racial preferences. Her university is currently the target of anti-affirmative action activists for its admissions policies. Nevertheless, she was unyielding in her defense of the need for diversity on college campuses.

"Our country entrusts our institutions of higher education to stretch and challenge the minds of undergrads, not to present mirror images of ourselves," she said.

According to Cantor, providing diversity on a college campus is, in fact, as necessary as providing classrooms.

"That's our job. That's what we are supposed to be doing," she said. "We are supposed to be creating the best educational environment possible for all our students. We contend that diversity is a key factor in making the most lively and best educational environment."

Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said that many admissions considerations such as alumni connections, student athletics, and musical accomplishments are rarely questioned. …

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