Affirmative Action

Private and Corporate Foundations and Students of Color

As discussed here https://revolutionarypaideia.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/higher-education-in-a-post-affirmative-action-society/, we must begin to think about how to ameliorate access to higher education for students of color, especially at predominantly White institutions (PWIs), in an epoch where affirmative action is waning and completely eradicated in some places. We are going to have to be more sophisticated and comprehensive about how we improve access to higher education for students of color in a post-affirmative action society. The use of private and corporate foundations is one serious way we can increase access to higher education for students of color. These foundations have to be encouraged to significantly increase the amount of funding they devote to helping minority students to be able to afford to attend college.

Top minority leaders and supporters have to engage in serious discourses with these foundations to have them to understand the importance of their larger support for minority students. If foundations are not willing to increase their financial support for minority students, then we have to be willing to cut off our support for them. People of color contribute so much to these corporations, and they are going to need to understand how vital it is for them to give back to these minorities. If people of color are good enough to take their money when they purchase your goods and services, then they are good enough to give back to when they need your support.

Now, I very much appreciate those foundations that have a history of supporting minority students. These individuals will need the continued and augmented support of these foundations. The traditional foundations that have helped students of color in the past will not be enough. More foundations are going to have to invest significant financial support in students of color to give them the necessary funding to pursue higher education. It will be highly important for researchers, especially researchers of color, to make compelling cases for why foundations need to give significantly more to minority students and how this increased giving benefits them in meaningful ways, including greater profitability for them.

Corporations that do not have foundations should be presented with ideas for starting them and with ways to fund increased access to higher education for minority students. For minority businesses that are able, they need to dedicate more money to increased access to higher for students of color.

I am not suggesting that the aforementioned ideas are panaceas, but they are ways to generate improved access to higher education for students of color. They also let us know that we have to show up and be heard by the leaders of these private and corporate foundations. The least we can do is increase our requests for greater financial support from these foundations. If they are not willing to enhance their support for students of color, then we will have at least publicly exposed that potential reality. Let’s explore more ideas like these, instead of simply focusing on affirmative action.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Higher Education in a Post-Affirmative Action Society

Too much attention has been devoted to whether or not affirmative action should be used in higher education. Many court cases have emerged surrounding the constitutionality of affirmative action. What is missing, however, is a serious exploration of what to do when affirmative action is no longer legally acceptable. When one carefully examines affirmative action, he or she can gain an understanding that affirmative action is an inadequate attempt to achieve racial and social justice in the first place. In Race Matters, Cornel West avowed 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, this should not be perceived as an epoch when achieving a more diverse student and faculty population in higher education is impossible. There never should have been such an emphasis placed on affirmative action to generate an unremittingly more diverse student and faculty population in higher education. While I am not positing that affirmative action is not important, it is more useful to dedicate more time to many of the larger principles and values that gave rise to use of affirmative action in higher education. Equity and access were 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 should not be actively advocating for improved equity and access for minority students and faculty in higher education. We are going to have to approach ameliorating student and faculty diversity comprehensively. In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson contended that one of the defining characteristics of postmodernism is a general celebration of fragmentation. Jameson asserted that postmodern people have a general skepticism toward seeking wholeness—totality. A serious effort to resist fragmentary thought has to accompany any critical effort to bolster student and faculty diversity in higher education. We are not going to augment student and faculty diversity in higher education if we do not champion institutionalizing improved equity and access for people of color.

One of the first things we need to do to increase the number of racial and ethnic minority students and faculty in higher education is to make an honest commitment to train educational leaders for racial and social justice. Teachers, curriculum directors, and administrators have to have an understanding of why diversity is important, and they must understand why knowledge about what racial and social justice is crucial to helping higher education institutions become more reflective of the larger society. While teachers, curriculum directors, and administrators are receiving undergraduate and graduate training, we have to let Schools of Education know that racial and social justice training needs to be an integral part of the education they receive. Students need to have a practical understanding of what racial and social justice is. At this point, minorities cannot afford for racial and social justice to be mere vocabulary words. Professors in Schools of Education have to let our future administrators, teachers, and curriculum directors know that their research, policies, and practices should be informed by racial and social justice.

Chief Diversity Officers at predominantly White colleges and universities have to offer professional development training for other administrators and professors about how to respond effectively to the diverse students they serve. These institutions must offer meaningful incentives for White professors and administrators to buy into the need for racial and social justice to be central to everything their institutions do. Schools of Education need to inform future professors, curriculum directors, and administrators about critical race theory (CRT). Engaging students with CRT gives them an opportunity to see why race must be central to all that they do in the future as educational leaders.

Higher education administrators are going to have to work harder to make sure that their predominately White institutions (PWIs) are spaces that are welcoming to all students. They must make sure their institutions are structurally welcoming to students and faculty of color. In “Nine Themes in Campus Racial Climates and Implications for Institutional Transformation,” Shaun R. Harper and Sylvia Hurtado found in over 15 years of published research that PWIs are not seriously trying to become welcoming places for people of color. One of the significant themes they found was that whiteness dominated in space, curricula, and activities at PWIs.  Higher education administrators, therefore, have to make sure that there is a greater presence of blackness in space, curricula, and activities.

At the end of the day, higher education administrators are going to have to engage in serious efforts to promote diversity at the admissions stage of the higher education pipeline. It is a social reality that access largely refers to admissions. More focused study and commitment is needed to significantly increase the number of qualified minorities who attend PWIs.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one the leading research universities in the nation and world, there is an African-American student population that is less than 2%. This is pathetic—when one considers that near this institution is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has a significant African-American population. I am not advocating for institutions like the University of Wisconsin-Madison to admit unqualified African-American students, but the institution can certainly do much better than the less than 2% African-American student population it currently has. You can read more about my outrage at the lack of student diversity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a major Wisconsin newspaper here: http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/04/28/recertification_in_p.php.

Instead of arguing about affirmative action, we need to focus our attention on achieving the optimal goal of affirmative action: true racial and social justice. Racial and ethnic minorities in higher education are going to have to recognize that we need to leave discourses about affirmative action and move to discourses about racial and social justice. If we don’t do this, then we will see an exponential decline in people of color in higher education.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Essentiality of Post-Affirmative Action Thought in the 21st Century

Black Students

Although the use of Affirmative Action as policy and legislation is controversial, serious discourse and thought is needed that goes beyond the limitations of Affirmative Action.  In Race Matters, Cornel West, one of the most liberal scholars and thinkers living, contends that Affirmative Action cannot completely ensure equity and access for historically marginalized and economically and socially disadvantaged people in the workplace, education, and governmental contracts.  He argues that Affirmative Action was never intended to be a total remedy for redressing the history of racial discrimination, violence, and prejudice and Jim Crow laws African-Americans were subjected to. West believes that Affirmative Action was an attempt by liberal Whites to appease Blacks, but not give them the full access and equity that they need in the workplace, education, and governmental contracting. While people are still debating about the fairness, usefulness, and purpose of Affirmative Action, it no longer exists in many places.  Many states like Michigan, Alaska, Oregon, California, and Washington have passed legislation outlawing the use of Affirmative Action.  With the delicate 5-4 balance on the U.S. Supreme Court that allows the use of Affirmative Action to remain constitutional, we need to consider alternatives to it. The purpose of this article is to offer higher education institutions, especially predominantly White selective institutions, alternatives to Affirmative Action that aim to move us closer to total equity and access for people of color in higher education.

I am completely exhausted with hearing higher education institutions talk about how important diversity is to them.  For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the institution in which I attend, has hired a Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate, Damon Williams, an African-American male, to ameliorate diversity on our campus. One can find a position like his at almost every institution, but the impact of this position in terms of increasing the racial and ethnic minority population at these institutions is miserably inadequate.  Less than 5% of the student body at University of Wisconsin-Madison is composed of racial and ethnic minorities. African-American students compose the largest minority group at this institution, but less than 2% of the student body is African-American. (My comments about my problems with the dismal number of racial and ethnic minority students were placed in The Badger Herald http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/04/28/recertification_in_p.php .) University of Wisconsin-Madison and other selective colleges and universities across the nation are going to have to understand that if they are going to be taken serious about their commitment to diversity, then they are going to have to make this commitment materialize during the admissions and hiring stages.  Let’s us be real—at the end of the day it’s all about who an institution lets in and hires that will constitute the type of diversity on its campus. The reality is these selective higher education institutions are not interested in diversity. The rhetoric about diversity they employ is simply about marketing and politics.

To move beyond this marketing and politics about diversity viable alternatives to Affirmative Action must be engendered and implemented. Since there are problems with Affirmative Action because it uses racial preferences, then I offer that we replace the racial preferences with income-based (socioeconomic) preferences. Inevitably, the racial preferences of Affirmative Action are going to be declared unconstitutional by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.  Socioeconomic preferences can be used as the plus factor that racial preferences currently receive. In this way, many of those who already benefit from racial preferences will not lose that benefit, but will gain that benefit in a way that will garner greater support and have a greater chance to pass the test of being constitutional perpetually. While I do acknowledge that some consideration for race is necessary, using racial perferences will inevitably be found to be in direct conflict with the 14th Amendment. For those who are proponents of Affirmative Action, this measure would ensure its continuation. Over time, there is a potential for socioeconomic preferences to generate even greater results than racial preferences have and will be able to produce.

The final suggestion that I am going to offer at this time is for higher education institutions to develop a more comprehensive notion of diversity. In Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson asserts that the dominant reason efforts to remedy serious problems fail in the postmodern epoch is there is a failure to engage in thinking about the problems comprehensively.  All higher education institutions need to have a center that brings all aspects of the university together behind the wide notions of diversity currently existing.  Every aspect of the institution should be engaged in the various notions of diversity.  In this way, we will approach diversity in a comprehensive way that allows for greater colloboration to achieve a wider and more cognitively mapped notion of diversity. The current approach being used at most higher education institutions is a decentralized approach that leads to diversity being addressed in a highly fragmentary way.  For example, predominantly White higher education institutions w have Multicultural Student Centers, LGBT Centers, and etc., but do not make efforts to bring these various groups together to work on diversity issues and will not involve the larger campus community in these efforts. Higher education institutions, therefore, need to work to foster greater colloboration among various diversity interests on campus to manufacture a greater and more comprehensive notion of diversity on campuses across the nation.

The reality is we have to consider that we live in a post-Affirmative Action society. Higher education institutions are going to have to make serious efforts to respond to the reality that we live in a post-Affirmative Action society. Let me be clear—this article is not arguing for or against Affirmative Action. It attempts to have us to think about alternatives to Affirmative Action to achieve greater minority representation at colleges and universities across the nation. This article does not attempt to offer the panacea for diversity problems or Affirmative Action, but simply offers some ideas for how we might begin to think about approaching the challenges of diversity in higher education we face in the 21st century. The current minority representation in higher education is miserably inadequate. Let’s begin to think about serious ways to ensure true equity and access in higher education for all people. Do not simply sit around and discuss diversity issues in your little private groups—go to your university administrators and discuss potential solutions to the diversity challenges your institution faces. Let’s act today!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison