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21st Century Affirmative Action

By on October 28, 2012

Too much attention has been devoted to whether affirmative action should be used in higher education.  Many court cases have challenged the constitutionality of affirmative action  in higher education.  What’s missing, however, is a serious exploration of what to do when affirmative action is no longer legal.  Careful examination of affirmative action shows the policy to be inadequate in the first place.  In Race Matters, Cornel West made this argument but made clear that affirmative action is still a small, yet significant step in the journey to achieving racial and social justice.

With affirmative action being eliminated in some states and being weakened by the courts, we still should not lose faith in achieving a more diverse student and faculty population in higher education.  In my opinion, there never should have been such an emphasis placed on affirmative action to generate a continuously more diverse student and faculty population in higher education. It is more useful to dedicate more time to many of the larger principles that led to the use of affirmative action in higher education to begin with.

Equity and access were and remain central to the formulation and implementation of affirmation action in higher education.  Just because we are witnessing the waning of affirmative action in higher education does not mean that we shouldn’t be actively advocating for improved equity and access for minority students and faculty.  We’re not going to enhance student and faculty diversity in higher education if we do not champion institutionalizing improved equity and access for people of color.

Ways to Improve Equity and Access in Higher Education:

  • Increase the number of minority students and faculty in higher education.
  • Make a public, honest commitment to train educational leaders for racial and social justice.
  • Teachers and administrators must resign themselves to the importance of diversity.
  • Research, policies, and practices should be informed by racial and social justice.

Higher education administrators must commit to diversity during the admissions process.  It is a social reality that access largely refers to admissions.  Instead of arguing about affirmative action, there should be a commitment to achieving the optimal goal of affirmative action: true racial and social justice.  If we don’t address this paradigm, there will be a tremendous decline in people of color in higher education in the future.



Mr. Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Research Associate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) obtaining his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also blogs at Revolutionary Paideia.


One Comment

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