The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Changes to Minority Scholarship Programs Pose New Threat to Affirmative Action on Campus
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 3/22/2006The nation's colleges and universities have begun opening up minority scholarships, fellowships, and other programs to all students in response to pressure from affirmative action opponents, which is putting decades-long progress in ensuring equal access to higher education in serious jeopardy, according to civil rights groups.
"That some colleges and universities are keeping so-called minority aid programs but opening them to all students is just another way of saying they are ending these programs," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).
While many colleges and universities have maintained their commitment to diversity, some of the nation's top schools, including Princeton University, Carnegie Mellon University, Pepperdine University, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Washington University in St. Louis, and Williams College have decided to modify programs originally designed to reach out to underrepresented communities, including minorities and women.
Despite the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the need for affirmative action programs and the consideration of race as one of many factors in higher education admissions, anti-affirmative action groups like the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) continue to claim that affirmative action programs are unconstitutional and have threatened to sue numerous colleges and universities who defend their programs.
Since Grutter, the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) has sent more than 200 letters challenging colleges and universities' programs.
The attacks on affirmative action have been coordinated and systematic, often benefiting from assistance from the Department of Education (DOE) and, most recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ). Earlier this year, facing the threat of a lawsuit from DOJ, Southern Illinois University agreed to change three fellowship programs whose recipients have been mainly underrepresented minorities or women.
"Opponents of affirmative action who continue to challenge colleges and universities remain unwilling to acknowledge existing, persistent educational disparities and affirmative action's important role in leveling the playing field," said LCCR's Henderson.
Civil rights groups maintain that affirmative action programs merely ensure that minorities and women have a level playing field and equal access to opportunities.
"How is it that they conclude that the great evil in this country is discrimination against white people?" Theodore M. Shaw, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told The New York Times. "Can I put that question any more pointedly? I struggle to find the words to do it because it's so stunning."
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities estimates that as many as half of the four-year colleges in the country have reviewed or opened their programs.
According to The New York Times, given the possible reluctance of colleges and universities to announce that they are opening successful programs that help to diversify the student body, there may be no accurate count of how many schools have actually opened their programs.