Diversity Matters Regardless of What the Supreme Court Rules

A Princeton professor, a N. J. former student, a N. J. Assemblyman, and minister/activist who used to live in NJ weigh in on today's U. S. Supreme Court hearing on affirmative action in admission to public universities. The last such case was in 2003, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the majority opinion allowing race to be considered in admission decisions, as one factor among many. She has since left the court. Today's NY Times indicates the decisive vote will almost certainly be that of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, but he dissented in the 2003 decision and he has never voted to uphold an affirmative action program. Thus there is reason to think the earlier decision is in peril.

In a N.Y. Times Op Ed Princeton Professor Thomas Espenshade writes, "I believe that race-conscious affirmative action is necessary, and often beneficial - though I am not hopeful that the court will agree. However, a Supreme Court ruling against the university might spur Americans who care about racial inequality to seek alternatives to affirmative action by addressing the deeply entrenched disadvantages that lower-income and minority children face from the beginning of life."

Nida Abdulla of Berkeley Heights responds, "Thomas J. Espenshade points out that only 1 percent of all Hispanic and black 18-year-olds benefit from affirmative action. As a minority student having been at a university that practiced affirmative action, I can say that 1 percent makes a huge difference in terms of campus culture and the lives of their own families and future families."

Conservative Michael Patrick Carroll, N. J. Assemblyman (R-25), says, "Affirmative action represents a governmental thumb on the scale of justice, preferring members of one race over members of another. Every such decision creates a living victim of racial discrimination, denied a benefit based solely upon skin color."

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who until recently resided in Englewood, said on today's MSNBC's NOW show,"Diversity is the best thing for America for all races. There are no victims when you have racial diversity, there are only victims when you stop racial diversity. And if we depend on those who broke up the American union and diversity to enforce diversity we will never have diversity."

New Jersey's private and public universities by and large have striven to increase diversity, and well they should. Current census data for NJ's population indicates White persons, not Hispanic, comprise 58.9%, Hispanic 18.1%, and Black 14.6%. Public Question # 1 on our November ballot would allow the state to borrow a well-deserved $750 million for buildings and upgrades at institutions of higher learning. It's important to strengthen these institutions and make them available to our diverse population regardless of what the Supreme Court might rule.  

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