ACE Lauded at Conference for Stand on Diversity

By Chenoweth, Karin | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

ACE Lauded at Conference for Stand on Diversity


Chenoweth, Karin, Black Issues in Higher Education


San Francisco -- Both Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala praised the American Council on Education (ACE) for its recent statement on the need for diversity in higher education.

"I am very grateful and proud of the statement on diversity by ACE and other higher education organizations. It was the right thing to say and do," Riley said to ACE members during their national conference in San Francisco last month.

The ACE statement says a diverse student and faculty body are integral to providing a quality education and that colleges and universities need to be "able to reach out and make a conscious effort to build healthy and diverse learning environments appropriate for their missions." It does not, however, specifically use the words "affirmative action." (For the complete ACE text and signatories, see Black Issues, February 19).

When queried about this omission, Shalala said, "The words are unimportant. What is important is taking a stand for the need for diversity."

Riley told the assembled college and university presidents and other officials, "Your schools must clearly define your educational missions and the importance of a diverse student body to that mission. And then you must work to develop thoughtful and legally supportable ways to achieve diversity."

That idea was discussed again in more detail by two Department of Education officials during small workshop sessions at the ACE conference.

John R. Fry, the national affirmative action coordinator of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education, said that colleges and universities need to have a clear definition of diversity and how diversity helps them meet their educational goals.

"This is where higher education has to roll up their sleeves," he said, referring to the fact that there has been little research done to document the educational benefits of a diverse student and faculty body.

"This research is not as well developed as it could be," he said, adding that the Harvard Diversity Project (see Black Issues, April 15, 1997), ACE, and the Department of Education are engaged in such research.

Fry said that colleges and universities may be able to use race in a flexible manner in admissions in those states where it is not prohibited if the following conditions are met:

* The college or university has a clear statement as to the educational benefits of diversity.

* The institution uses the same admissions standards for all students.

* It reviews its processes annually to make sure the use of race continues to be necessary.

* It has tried or considered using race-neutral methods to meet goals.

* The use of race doesn't burden White students unncessarily.

Fry's comments were echoed in another seminar by Arthur L. Coleman, deputy assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights. …

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