This is America: Affirmative action cases play out in our courtrooms while political interest groups hold public debates over the merits of affirmative action policies at our colleges and universities. Meanwhile, the minority students themselves get on with business; they maintain their pursuit of the advanced training and degrees that will provide them with a future of their choosing.
DIVERSITY PROGRAM ISSUES
Even as affirmative action policies are challenged and changed by the courts, virtually all universities continue to voice their determination to build a diverse community of learners, in order to enhance the learning opportunities for all of their students. And the engine that drives the campus diversification policy is an active recruitment program for qualified high school students of color. But what is considered "active" recruitment? And how do minority students themselves weigh the value of diversity recruitment? Given the substantial costs involved in an active minority recruitment policy, there are a number of key issues about affirmative action and minority recruitment currently being examined by college administrators. Following are some of the issues raised among a contingent of professional admissions officers at the leading academic institutions in the Northeast:
How do minority students feel about being singled out? Are they glad that they are finally getting some special treatment, or are they concerned that they are being exploited?
Are minority candidates getting an accurate feel for the reality of the campus, when they attend recruitment programs designed specifically for them? At these targeted programs, there may seem to be a larger number of minority students than the campus might actually have. In fact, minority groups on campus often pool their efforts to develop such a program, yet during the academic year these groups may not actually be that cohesive or mutually supportive.
How much value (in terms of time and cost expended) is there in a high-powered recruitment program? Some programs send college representatives across the country to interview students; create specific marketing pieces that are sent out to large numbers of high school students who identify themselves as a member of a minority group; and cover the expense of bringing a selected group of individuals to campus for several days to meet with students and faculty. What's the return on investment for such programs?
Should Asian students be included in minority recruitment? For the purpose of diversifying a campus through targeted recruitment, many colleges do not consider Asians as minorities. Then again, lines may be arbitrarily drawn, which concerns many admissions officers: For instance, a school may consider only Laotians and Vietnamese as disadvantaged students who merit special consideration. On the other hand, some Asians, particularly the Chinese, are insulted when included in targeted diversity recruitment, because they see these programs as designed specifically for the recruitment of "disadvantaged people."
What about middle-class and wealthier individuals of color? Should they be included in minority recruitment? Many recruitment programs are paid entirely out of a college's funds, and not by the participants. Should a college bear the financial burden for minority individuals who could comfortably afford to visit the campus on their own? In such instances, should the lines drawn be socioeconomic as well as racial?
How should colleges define "minority" or "people of color?" What percentage of color, for instance, qualifies an individual for this special status? Given the increasing rate of interracial marriage in our society, and the various ethnic groups now categorized as Hispanic, delineating minority status for the purpose of diversifying a campus (and thus defining a diversity recruitment program) is no easy task. …