Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Heavy Weights Spar over Affirmative Action at Ace Conference: Black/Hispanic Workshops Stress Counteroffensive Strategies

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Heavy Weights Spar over Affirmative Action at Ace Conference: Black/Hispanic Workshops Stress Counteroffensive Strategies

Article excerpt

Heavy Weights Spar Over Affirmative Action at ACE Conference:. Black/Hispanic Workshops Stress Counteroffensive Strategies

KANSAS CITY, MO -- With affirmative action under siege, minorities in higher education are stepping up the battle to sustain hard-won gains.

"One of the blessings of the turmoil is that it has made us stronger and more cohesive," said Felicenne Ramey, executive officer to the chancellor of the University of California-Davis, referring to the July Board of Regents vote to dismantle affirmative action.

Ramey made her point as she conducted a recent workshop session at the American Council on Education (ACE) conference held here. She conducted the session, along with Francisco Rodriquez, director of the UC-Davis' Cross-Cultural Center, on the lessons learned from the attacks on California affirmative action programs.

"Where once Francisco and I would not have worked together, now we are appearing at workshops on the same program," she noted.

Agreeing that the two have a closer working relationship than in the past, Rodriguez said that African Americans and Hispanic Americans are finding common cause "under duress."

Debunking Myths

The information they passed along to workshop participants included a debunking of ten myths about affirmative action. The myths include, for example, the statement that minority students "fail academically." The data gathered so far show that the 15-percent gap between minorities' and the general student body's failure rate in 1983 closed to 11.4 percent in 1987.

In addition, Ramey's remarks indicate that an alliance is likely in the frequently strained relationship between Black and Hispanic higher education professionals in the face of a steady stream of challenges of race-based and ethnic-based hiring and admission preference programs.

The ACE gathering represents the biennial conference held to help higher education faculty and administrators improve minority access and graduation rates.

Racial Climate' Discussed

The nation's current racial climate dominated panel discussions, plenary sessions and even corridor gossip among the 800 participants and speakers at this year's conference.

Conferees said the national debate on race has been intensified by the acquittal of O.J. Simpson and the Million Man March on Washington that was organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

"People want to know how to devise a strategy to defend against attacks on affirmative action," said ACE senior scholar and conference organizer, Reginald Wilson, after a seminar on tactics drew a standing-room-only crowd. …

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