Affirmative action has been one of the most hotly debated topics in higher education since the 1960s, as well as one of PrezBo’s most hotly pursued passions. Before taking the reins as Columbia’s president, ‘Bo.0 served as president of the University of Michigan, where his defense of affirmative action in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger made international headlines. While his work with issues of diversity is pivotal, he still strives to maintain a balance between sustaining Columbia’s educational mission and continuing his role as a first amendment scholar and firebrand defender of wide-open free speech. He believes that the two go hand-in-hand, maintaining that the press and the university are the best places to support free speech.
Yesterday, he published an op-ed in The Washington Post (where he serves as a director) on college diversity being at risk—specifically pertaining to the Supreme Court’s pending decision as to whether or not they will hear Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin. The case, in which a white student named Abigail Fisher asserted that she would have been admitted to the university if it weren’t for her race, has been ruled in the university’s favor by lower courts. In the piece, Prezbo stresses that the court hearing the case will be a blow to college diversity across the nation. He uses Columbia as an example for what a university should strive for in terms of diversity.
Consider Columbia, where our undergraduate student body has the highest percentage of low- and moderate-income students and the largest number of military veterans of our peer institutions, as well as the highest percentage of African American students among the nation’s top 30 universities. But our country cannot rely on private universities such as Columbia to realize these benefits. Far more students attend our great public universities, where a combination of declining state support and unfavorable ballot measures pose a serious risk to our model of higher education.