affirmative action Archive



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img November 21, 20151:08 pmimg 2 Comments

Maybe one day we'll stop investing in fossil fuels!

Maybe one day we’ll stop investing in fossil fuels!

PrezBo’s Defense of Affirmative Action and Discussion of Columbia’s Racial Policy

At the beginning of Friday’s University Senate plenary, PrezBo gave a long speech about racism and the university’s role therein. His speech was historical in nature, starting with the Supreme Court decision Brown vs. The Board of Education, which struck down segregated public schooling as unconstitutional. After that decision, PrezBo said, “basically” every college in the US embraced affirmative action policies, as well as corporations and the government.

However, PrezBo went on, in the late 1980’s these ideas began to be attacked under the Reagan administration, and a challenge to the University of Texas’s Law School’s affirmative action policies succeeded in the Supreme Court. Later, Proposition 209 to California’s constitution got rid of affirmative action, and, according to PrezBo, the University of California is now 2.5% African-American (it was higher before Prop 209, he said).

Find out more about USenate discourse after the jump



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img May 17, 20148:34 pmimg 6 Comments

A pretty pale Warren Court

A pretty pale Warren Court

Go back in time sixty years to the date. May 17, 1954—the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional the segregation of African-American students in school, blasting the “separate-but-equal” status quo that existed to that point. Columbia’s favorite affirmative action and equal opportunity advocate, PrezBo, wrote an article in The New Yorker arguing that, while we’ve come a long way as a society, we might recently have forgotten what Brown vs Board really stood, and still stands, for.

The 1978 Bakke decision, PrezBo writes, turned this original idea of affirmative action on its head by declaring these new policies, put in place to establish certain “critical masses” of historically oppressed racial groups, unconstitutional because they disadvantaged other innocent but historically privileged people; rather, the decision allowed for the consideration of race and ethnicity in creating a more diverse student population.

However, PrezBo argues, this decision has required college presidents and other officials to create and follow “hollow and banal” admissions policies that students can see right through. In fact, both university and government officials are hesitant to touch on the topic of race. PrezBo notes the few memorable times a certain other president has spoken up on the issue, most recently regarding the Donald Sterling debacle, supporting his claim with extremely timely and true examples. He counters by including his own defense of University of Michigan’s policies, a case that also went to the Supreme Court and won, but was, in unprecedented Supreme Court fashion, given a time limit before affirmative action could become irrelevant.

Our famed scholar then gets to the good stuff, but we’ll leave that to you to explore.

Warren Court via Wikimedia Commons




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img April 24, 20149:04 amimg 0 Comments

Not so fast...

Not so fast…

Fleet Foxes is still on hiatus, guys. Just give the kids some time to tend to their Columbia education. (Pitchfork)

We don’t know about you, but we’re Ready for (Grandma) Hillary. (The Washington Post)

The Folk Art Museum’s destruction is the MoMA’s pet preservation project. (The New York Times)

The Supreme Court recently upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. What does this mean now? (Politico)

And lastly, let’s take a moment for a #tbt — throwing back to the days when Speccies could rely on consistent publication. (Bwog)

Print journalism, oh my! via Shutterstock.



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img October 15, 20137:33 pmimg 17 Comments

PrezBo wasn’t in New York Today! He’s lecturing on affirmative action at the Univ. of Illinois!

podium reads, "Illini Union"

Snatched paraphrases of his talk, from someone who was there:

  • “If legacies and athletes want to argue for easier admissions they can do that, but certain races can’t.”
  • “America still has healing to do because of our past… It is about more than educational benefits, it’s about history… We are still not where we need to be… race still matters, prejudice still exists… “
  • “The pre-college educational system is just as segregated as it was in 1960.”
  • “I led the defense of affirmative action at Michigan.”

[The video and transcript should soon be online.]

Photo courtesy Owen Skelding



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img June 25, 20135:10 pmimg 12 Comments

PrezBo doesn't look at cameras.

He looks great, whether chilling at Baker or responding to Supreme Court decisions .

Yesterday, the Supreme Court sort of upheld race-based affirmative action. In the case of Fisher v. Texas, in which a white girl named Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas for not admitting her and practicing race-based affirmative action, a lower court ruled in favor of the University.

Many Supreme Court watchers expected the conservative justices on the Supreme Court would overturn the lower court’s decision and rule that affirmative action was unconstitutional. Instead, the Court ruled 7-1 (with 1 abstention) that the case should be reargued in the lower court. Basically, the Court dodged the question of whether race-based affirmative action is constitutional.

So the press turned to the next best authority on affirmative action: Prezbo, who was involved in two landmark affirmative action case back in 2002, when he was president of the University of Michigan. In those cases, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court basically ruled that it was OK for schools to consider race in admissions, as long as they didn’t set racial quotas or say that being black was equal to a certain number of SAT points. The Court also insisted, as they had in an earlier case called Bakke v. University of California, that race could only be used for the purpose of having a diverse class, not to correct for historical discrimination against minorities.

After the jump, see Prezbo’s reaction to the decision



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img October 16, 201210:18 pmimg 9 Comments

Our very involved president.

Last week, the Supreme Court began hearing the Fisher vs. University of Texas case.  This case, concerning affirmative action at the University of Texas, threatens to overturn the 2003 Grutter vs. Bollinger, that upheld the use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman, brought her arguments to the court after being denied admission to the University of Texas in 2008.  She believes she was rejected because of her race; she thinks her place in the student body was taken to create more diversity in the school.

The University of Texas has a unique admissions process.  In 1997 they passed Texas House Bill 588.  This bill instituted the “Top 10% Rule,” wherein the top 10% of every public school in Texas is granted admission to University of Texas.  It came to being following Hopwood v. Texas, which showed that the university was not using affirmative action properly and could not use race in admissions.

However, a change came with Grutter vs. Bollinger.  In PrezBo’s Freedom of Speech and Press class, he has been candidly discussing the history of affirmative action cases.  “I’m an advocate,” PrezBo said last Wednesday.  He believes that it supports diversity, which allows students to learn more from each other with differing perspectives.  Just as a school wants students from every state and other countries, it wants people with different backgrounds.  As he wrote in an article last week in the LA Times, “abandonment of the Grutter precedent would undermine the quality of education we can offer to all our students.”  In class, Bollinger cited California Prop 209, which banned the use of race in the admissions process.  After it was instituted, he explained, diversity at California schools crashed.  He goes into details about this in the LA Times article.

He did not want this happening in Michigan.  In fact, he did not want it happening across the nation; Bollinger understood that the ruling in Grutter vs. Bollinger would affect institutions everywhere.  He ensured that, bringing together other schools.  He then pulled corporations to defend the use of race in hiring.  Gerald Ford wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about his college experience with diversity.  Bollinger also turned to military academies for their support.




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img April 17, 201211:12 pmimg 2 Comments

Yesterday the African Students Association hosted their last political round table of the year on the topic of affirmative action. Panelists included University President Lee Bollinger, Professor Eric Foner, Professor Ted Shaw from the Law School, and Janine Jackson, program director at FAIR. Packed to capacity from 9 pm till 11 pm, Lerner C555 provided the venue for extended comments from this all-star panel of speakers. Foner Fan Alex Jones was there.

ASA Political Chair Kambi Gathesha, GS ’13, commenced the round table with a justificatory caveat explaining the purpose of the discussion. First and most obviously, Kambi cited the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which questions Grutter v. Bollinger qua the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Kambi continued by citing the importance of broad historical and legal context while discussing affirmative action, as the issue can often be surrounded by nuanced and misunderstood language. He then pointed to the University’s announcement of a $30 million Faculty Diversity Initiative and resulting Bwog comments as evidence that this campus is want for a healthy examination of the principles underlying the policies that it practices. Kambi read aloud—”not for shock value”—a Bwog comment suggesting, “how bout instead of hiring based on the hue of one’s flesh, we emphasize *actual* competence and hire based on skill instead!” The shock was lost on me, but then I’ve never been a student of affirmative action. Who am I to question intellectual magnums like PrezBo and Foner?




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img February 21, 20124:30 pmimg 8 Comments

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Fisher v. Texas, a case which, if ruled in favor of Fisher, would effectively undo PrezBo’s landmark 2003 affirmative action win. PrezBo scored that victory, Grutter v. Bollinger, coming east from UMich, where he was a big affirmative action supporter. The conclusion of the case affirmed public universities’ right to consider race as a factor in admissions.

Arguments won’t start until this October, so PrezBo’s trophy will hold its sheen for at least a few months longer. And when they do, the judicial leaning of the Court is such that affirmative action policy will likely remain intact. If, however, Fisher ends up taking a feather out of PrezBo’s cap, at least ‘Bo can still find solace in his hair and mansion and stuff.



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img January 16, 20122:00 pmimg 23 Comments

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.

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