The Cavalier Daily
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Diversity catalyst ...

THE LONG journey for equality and diversity in education for black students at the University started back in 1935.

A black female Virginian applied to the all-white University. She was denied acceptance, according to Sylvia V. Terry, associate dean at the Office of African-American Affairs, "because the education of white and colored persons in the same school is contrary to the long-established and fixed policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia." She was not denied acceptance because of her lack of academic merit, as she possessed the necessary criteria for admission. She was denied acceptance because it wasn't considered proper for blacks to be educated alongside of whites. In an effort to compensate her, the Commonwealth paid her expenses to attend an out-of-state school.

In 1950, another attempt was made to keep segregation alive within the realms of education when a black applicant was denied admission to the Engineering School. This student filed suit against the University and a federal court ruled in his favor. The first step towards equality and diversity in education was made. But it was not until 1961 that the first black student was accepted into the College of Arts and Sciences. These students represent a small portion of the students who were academically qualified to attend the University, but were denied acceptance because of their race.

Many white students who attend universities across the nation cannot comprehend the ramifications of removing affirmative action. On the outside looking in, one would be inclined to say that the University is doing a stupendous job at recruiting minority students and also is doing a marvelous job at increasing their graduation rate.

But if affirmative action did not exist, would the University see a need to keep diversity alive? If one looks at the history of affirmative action; it is obvious that its deactivation would decrease diversity. If universities were reaching out to the minority community as they do with non-minorities, then affirmative action would not exist or need to exist.

Affirmative action was created to provide an opportunity for those students of minority backgrounds who possess the academic talents to attend an institution such as the University, but who otherwise would not be given that opportunity due to their race. Affirmative action was not created to admit minorities based solely on the fact that they are minorities.

The question still remains: Should race play a part in the University's admissions process? Yes, minority students who possess the academic talents to attend the University should have affirmative action to give them the same opportunities that non-minority students have.

To keep diversity alive at the University, it is imperative that minority recruitment be a highly active process. Minority students are not going to want to attend an institution where they have to search for others like themselves. In large universities such as ours, it should not be hard to find students from the same ethnic background as you, since diversity is stressed here. But if affirmative action is removed from the admissions process, will diversity still exist?

No, affirmative action should not allow the use of race as the only criterion when accepting minority students into a university. Students should not be granted admission into any higher level institution solely because they represent a minority group. If affirmative action is used in this manner, then it should be terminated. Students should be granted acceptance to a university based on their academic abilities, not because they are black, Latino, etc.

Affirmative action has paved the way for equality and diversity within the realm of academia. If it were exorcised, the probable effect would be a decrease in diversity and a gradual turn back to a segregated admissions process.

(Aaron M. Lee is the minority affairs director for the University Democrats.)

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