Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Challenging the Racial Diversity Argument

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Challenging the Racial Diversity Argument

Article excerpt

The National Association of Scholars refutes research on the educational benefits of campus diversity

WASHINGTON

On the heels of federal court rulings in the University of Michigan's defense of race-conscious affirmative action in its undergraduate and law school admissions, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has issued a report this month refuting research that says campus racial diversity is correlated with educational benefits.

The research, which was conducted with data largely compiled by a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) research institute, has helped the University of Michigan build a legal argument around the idea that campus racial diversity improves student learning experiences.

The NAS report, Is Campus Racial Diversity Correlated With Educational Benefits?, has come under fire from officials at the University of Michigan and the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA. The report, authored by Dr. Thomas E. Wood, executive director of the California Association of Scholars, and Dr. Malcolm J. Sherman, associate professor of mathematics and science at State University of New York at Albany, elaborates on an earlier NAS critique of the University of Michigan's defense in the undergraduate admissions lawsuit Gratz v. Bollinger, according to NAS officials. The NAS fried an amicus brief in July 2000 in the Gratz case. The brief argued against the idea that racial diversity on a campus is linked to positive educational outcomes.

Michigan officials have argued that the recent NAS report repeats arguments that the federal court already addressed in the Gratz case ruling. On Dec. 13, 2000, federal district judge Patrick Duggan in the eastern district of Michigan ruled in favor of the university in the Gratz lawsuit, upholding the university's use of affirmative action in admissions. Duggan noted in his decision that the "university defendants have presented this court with solid evidence regarding the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body."

Officials have also dismissed NAS's claim that critics of the HERI research have been unfairly excluded from access to the data. Although the plaintiff's attorneys unsuccessfully sought the UCLA research dam from the University of Michigan, NAS officials said they did not contact HERI directly to request the data.

While HERI officials have confirmed that it was not their policy to release the data, they have made exceptions for the University of Michigan and the Mellon Foundation.

MISREPRESENTATION?

Despite the counterattacks from University of Michigan and UCLA officials, NAS officials maintain that the University of Michigan has misrepresented research findings in order to defend race-conscious affirmative action policies. The University of Michigan contends that the UCLA database demonstrates a correlation between "racially diverse student body and positive educational outcomes," a finding that is not verified in the data, according to the NAS's Wood.

Wood says the Michigan analysis, which was presented by Dr. Patricia Y. Gurin, the chair of the university's psychology department during the Gratz case, based its conclusions by "sleight of hand" techniques. …

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