We created this page of our Web site to set forth reasons in support of, and in opposition to affirmative action, with the intent that these summaries would be helpful to students who are writing research papers about affirmative action, a controversial topic.
In support of Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action is designed to end the discrimination of people based on race and nationality. It is a way to give non-whites an opportunity to have decent jobs and add to the diversity at any work place.
Diversity is desirable, but without a concerted effort to attract students and faculty from different identity groups, higher education communities would not be very diverse. In a diverse setting one can grow from interacting with people from different backgrounds by learning about their cultures and experiences. This knowledge helps eliminate stereotypes. In classrooms with people from different identity groups, students and faculty members can learn new perspectives from each other. For people who have been challenged in their lives (e.g. by economic hardship or by attending schools with few resources), affirmative action provides educational opportunities and a chance to prove that they can achieve. Racial and sexual barriers still exist in our society: affirmative action attempts to create a level playing field to help people compensate for that fact. Overall, people of color are exceptional assets to universities, colleges and employers. Their contribution adds to the quality of a place.
In Opposition to Affirmative Action
Some people say that instead of ending discrimination, affirmative action actually does the opposite. They say that it is unfair to use race as a consideration in admitting students to a college or university. Others argue that many of the students admitted on the basis of affirmative action are not equipped to perform in, for example, Ivy League schools. They say that the possibility for their success is low. Some say that affirmative action discourages students of color from achieving their best: there is little incentive to strive for a 4.0 average if one believes that a 3.2 average is all that is needed for being admitted. Others argue that giving minorities "special treatment" is in essence saying that they are too stupid to succeed in school or to find a job on their own. Overall, they say that minorities are demeaned because they are chosen on the basis of affirmative action: affirmative action then is a way to perpetuate a lack of incentive on the part of minorities to achieve success on their own.
Connecticut College Supports Affirmative Action
At Connecticut College, affirmative action influences hiring practices but not admission procedures. The College, as an institution, supports affirmative action as a tool for achieving diverse workplaces, although not all individual members of the College community support its use. At times this topic becomes the focus of debate on campus.
Affirmative action is an imperfect tool designed to help eliminate racial and sexual barriers to access, promotion, and success in the workplace and in college admission. Many members of the College's administration and faculty believe that there is still a need for its use in our society.
At Connecticut College, we strive to create a community that welcomes the individuality of each person who lives, works and/or studies here. While we use the legal tool of affirmative action in hiring, much of what we do to build a vibrant, diverse community go beyond procedures that are defined by law. We are an educational community in which there are many opportunities for dialogue and engagement across all lines of difference. We believe that knowledge and personal relationships are powerful antidotes to prejudice.
Other Web sites of Interest
Stanford University's Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes the history of affirmative action from a philosophical perspective, paying attention to both support for it and opposition to it:
The American Council on Education published a report in 1997 entitled, "The Case for Affirmative Action."
One issue of the Stanford University Magazine focused on this topic in 1996. The articles can be found at the following address. This address takes the reader to the article against affirmative action. Links to the "for" article and other related articles appear on the left-hand side of the page.www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/1996/sepoct/articles/against.html
This website was compiled by Judy Kirmmse, former Affirmative Action Officer at Connecticut College, and Yalidy Mercedes Matos '09.