Affirmative Action's Push-Pull on Diversity in Higher Education (Opinion)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last Tuesday's election showed us how the face of our country is changing. We saw the most diverse electorate in the history of the country with increases in the Latino and Asian American vote, and the African American vote at 13 percent -- the same high level as in the 2008 election. Notably, whites made up their lowest voting population ever at 72 percent of the electorate.

How do these shifting demographics impact higher education and affirmative action? The affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas currently before the United States Supreme Court is a hot topic in higher education. Much has changed since 2003 when the Supreme Court upheld a race-conscious admissions policy in the landmark case of Grutter v. Bollinger, on the basis that a diverse student body enriches the education of all students.

Although affirmative action laws do not directly impact admission policies at small private institutions such as Wheelock College, I believe that this issue is important to all institutions of higher education. A diverse student population is critical to providing a quality educational experience in today's diverse and increasing global society. The growing body of research and literature on "diversity" indicates that the ability to work effectively in a diverse workforce is critical to being prepared for our innovation -- and knowledge-based 21st century economy. Learning from and working collaboratively with people of diverse cultures, religions, abilities and perspectives with genuine mutual respect fosters mutually beneficial interaction and workplace success.

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