Colleges respond to court ruling

AU favors ruling

AU administration was pleased with the decision made by the Supreme Court's ruling in June that endorsed the use of affirmative action as means of attaining diversity within universities, yet many students still have mixed feelings about affirmative action as well as question the level of diversity on campus.

According to a statement from Vice President of the General Counsel Mary Kennard, "American University is pleased with the result. Most significant to us is that the Court reaffirmed the value of diversity in higher education. The ruling is consistent with AU's admission practices since we do not use a point system. We look individually at the background and experience of our students in shaping our class."

The decision came to a 5-4 vote in favor of affirmative action in the University of Maryland law school but struck down the undergraduate admissions policy of awarding 20 bonus points to minority students as well as any programs strictly designed to gain quotas.

"The Supreme Court made the right decision in my opinion," Law Professor Jamin Raskin said. "Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion closely mirrored the national consensus. People do not think that it is a perfect system but rather necessary in terms of diversity."

O'Connor wrote in the majority opinion that "in order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity."

As reported in The Eagle back in April, the University had filed as amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" brief with 38 other universities in support of affirmative action. Amicus briefs are meant to give the justices more information upon which to make their rulings. Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology had also signed the brief.

The University had said in the brief statement, "AU believes that a key ingredient in accomplishing its obligations to prepare global citizens and leaders is to ensure the direct engagement of its students with diverse peoples, cultures, ideas and traditions. This rich diversity of educational experience is assured by allowing, among other factors, the consideration of race in evaluating an applicant for admission to the University."

"My interpretation is that we don't have to change the way we've been operating things," Vice President of Enrollment Services Tom Myers said. "We try to have diversity at all levels. For instance, about eighteen percent of our incoming freshmen are minorities, ten percent are international and this might be seen as good or bad but sixty-five percent of your student population is female. We carefully look at male applicants and have given them every shot possible because we want them to be represented in the school too."

Although the administration is pleased with the decision, there is a mixture of attitudes concerning affirmative action from students.

"There is no room for affirmative action," senior Griffin Wholley said. "I think there are groups of people [that] are only using it as a crutch. On the far extreme, people think that there is a disadvantage for all minorities. Soon, we will define Caucasians as minorities with the minority population escalating and men as minorities as the female population keeps rising."

Other students feel that affirmative action is still needed to diversify student population as well as in the business setting.

"Affirmative [Action] is definitely needed within a campus," sophomore Tran Nguyen said. "One needs to learn and experience diversity; and the best place to do so is in school. One of the main goals of obtaining an education is to be prepared to work efficiently and successfully in a business environment. How can you work efficiently and successfully in your workplace, if you cannot work with people who have a different background then you do?"

Although AU prides itself as being diverse, some students feel that AU still needs to improve its diversity not only through race but also in such factors as economic background. Such is the case of senior Nik Obriecht who feels that colleges, especially private colleges, do not take class and economic background into consideration nearly as much as race and nationality.

"At AU, I find very few people of lower income backgrounds, especially from out of the U.S., this is obviously sensible considering the nature of the economic system in which schools in the U.S. can cost much more than entire families make in some places in the world," Obriecht said. "In fact, I find it rather appalling and sad that at AU while there are many people from various locations on the globe it seems that these people are filtered through and many ideas, clothing styles and preconceived notions about the world are homogenous regardless of where people are from and this shows me a lack of diversity."

However, others agree with the University in that they have maintained its goal in bringing together a mixture of diverse individuals to its campus.

"Diversity is not just physical, it is beyond that. There are other types of diversities like character and economic background that are found at AU," junior Ger Mua said. "But I feel like there's a large [amount] of people who don't seek out diversity here, so they don't believe that there is diversity because they stick with their comfort group. I'm from a small town back home and it is more comforting here just walking down the street where I feel more like I'm part of the community"

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