March 23, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Affirmative Action Deserves Respect

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To The Editor:

Re: “THROWDOWN THURSDAY: Is the Tide Turning Against Affirmative Action? ” Opinion, March 20.

Julius Kairey’s column is yet another distortion of the debate regarding affirmative action. First, Kairey and other opponents of affirmative action carry the burden of explaining why race comes under such high scrutiny when universities already base admissions on many other non-academic qualities such as gender, geography and legacy. Including race is a matter of consistency: It is affirmative action’s opponents who are “continuously injecting race into our politics,” not the other way around, as Kairey asserts.

Second, Kairey does not lend to the goal of diversity an appropriate level of legitimacy. In a Supreme Court case dealing with affirmative action this past summer, Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, along with more than 50 Fortune-100 companies, the Boston and New York State Bar Associations and even the National Association of Basketball Coaches filed briefs asking the Court to uphold affirmative action to maintain the “compelling state interest of diversity.”

Moreover, in a current case before the Court regarding affirmative action in Michigan, the National Education Association, a three million member organization composed mostly of educators, argues that the benefits of diversity on campus include “cross-racial understanding, fostering more enlightening classroom discussion, promoting better learning outcomes and preparing students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”

The Supreme Court has recognized these realities three times throughout our history — in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978, Grutter v. Bolliger in 2003 and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in 2013. It’s time we stop undermining such a crucial American value, and instead lend it the respect it deserves.

Jess Coleman ’16