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Affirmative Action Policies Gain Washington Boosters

Affirmative Action Policies Gain Washington Boosters
Higher education groups, lawmakers show support for the University of Michigan in friend-of-the-court brief
By Charles Dervarics

Higher education organizations, including those representing Black colleges, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Associations representing a broad cross-section of higher education “demonstrate their belief that racial and ethnic student diversity advances higher education,” says the brief endorsed by the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the American Council on Education, the United Negro College Fund and other groups.

“Diversity is basic to higher education’s main purposes,” the brief states — to help students grasp academic and citizenship skills and allow them to function in a global economy. “Although not the only kind of student diversity colleges and universities seek, racial and ethnic diversity is necessary if there is to be genuine diversity,” the brief states.

The brief from the colleges is in sharp contrast to the one filed by the Bush administration, which says colleges and universities should use all race-neutral means for achieving diversity before considering race as an admissions factor. The president also has termed the Michigan affirmative action plan a “quota system.”

Advocates of affirmative action have gone on the offensive to support the Michigan case, which will be argued before the high court this spring. Supporters of the policy argue that any rollback of the university’s policy will have a chilling effect on access by students of color to higher education.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by its chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., also have filed a friend-of-the-court brief along with other House colleagues. “We know from the evidence that the minority students who have studied at world-class institutions like Michigan’s live up to our highest aspirations — that they contribute substantially both to our nation and to their communities,” Cummings said.

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