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Affirmative action prompts diversity discussion


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Published 2012-03-07T10:42:00Z”/>

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Paul Smeltzer

In a case involving race-conscious admission at the University of Texas, the Supreme Court agreed Feb. 21 to hear an affirmative action case, thrusting student diversity into public concern.

In 1996, Proposition 209 banned affirmative action in California, and universities have since seen student diversity plunge, according to a Sept. 7, 2008, article in the Los Angeles Times. In fall 2006, only 250 of the 12,189 students admitted to UCLA’s freshman class were African-American, the lowest number since 1973.

About 2 percent of Chico State’s students are African-American, said Allan Bee, director of admissions for Chico State. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that African-Americans are not as prevalent in Chico State’s service area or region of admittance.

Chico State should put more effort into getting more students of minorities, said Solomon Gibson, a junior business information systems major and Black Leaders on Campus member.

Seventy-five percent of Latino and two-thirds of black students who go on to higher education in California go to community college, according to reports from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. But in 2010 only 20 percent of those students transferred to four-year institutions.

Diversity provides a wide spectrum of viewpoints, said Vicky Jacinto, director of internal affairs at Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA and junior psychology major.

“Everyone should have an equal chance to go to college regardless of where you’re from, your cultural background or your skin or how much money your parents make,” Jacinto said.

Some schools look at other criteria for admissions, like community service and social activities, to get a better picture of students.

Ethnic and racial factors should be parts of admission at Chico State, said Egypt Howard, a junior multicultural and gender studies major and vice president of BLOC.

“Chico State says it prides itself on diversity,” Howard said. “And if we’re talking about diversity, then Chico State should be admitting more minority groups.”

Howard was one of five people who discussed experiences as African-Americans at “It’s Because I’m Black,” a diversity meeting in Bell Memorial Union Feb. 22.

Not all speakers at the discussion felt the same way about admission into universities.

Affirmative action is an outdated policy designed to make up for wrongdoings in the past, said Malcom Dixon, a senior communication design major who attended the discussion.

“Today, there are more constructive ways to bring more African-Americans to campus other than affirmative action,” he said.

Sometimes minorities rely too heavily on decisions based on affirmative action, said Ryan Hall, a freshman biology major and member of BLOC.

As a result, “they feel the only reason they’re admitted is because they’re black,” he said.

There could be stigmas attached to knowing that an entire policy based on race, not academic achievement, is responsible for college admission, Hall said.

“I think it could cause people to develop an inferiority complex,” he said.

Affirmative action is not a policy that allows underqualified minorities into universities, said Tracy Butts, a professor of English and lecturer of the multicultural and gender studies department.

“It isn’t just people saying we’re going to let a bunch of black people or Mexican people in who don’t know anything,” she said. “It’s about providing everybody with opportunity to access an education.”

Women were the first people to benefit from affirmative action, Butts said.

As the world becomes more diverse, students should be prepared to engage with people who are different from them, diversity coordinator Tray Robinson said.

“We all need to exchange dialogue with people who are different and also similar to us,” Robinson said. “That’s the beauty of diversity.”

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<strong>Paul Smeltzer can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>

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