President Roth Writes a Strong Defense of Affirmative Action

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael S. Roth

In light of news that the Justice Department will investigate college affirmative action, President Michael S. Roth writes in Inside Higher Ed to urge resistance to efforts to restrict affirmative action.

“Ever since the founding of this country, we have recognized that education is indispensable to our vision of a democratic society. All men may be created equal in the abstract, but education provides people concrete opportunities to overcome real circumstances of poverty or oppression,” he writes. “Promoting access to a high-quality education has been key to turning American rhetoric of equality into genuine opportunity. And throughout our history, elites threatened by equality, or just by social mobility, have joined together to block access for groups striving to improve their prospects in life.”

He goes on to argue, “Creating a diverse campus is in the interest of all students, and it offers those from racial minorities opportunities that have historically been denied them. That’s why governing boards and admissions deans have crafted policies to find students from underrepresented groups for whom a strong education will have a transformative, even liberating effect.”

He concludes: “College and university admissions programs are not the place to promote partisan visions of social justice, but they are the place to produce the most dynamic and profound learning environments. Higher education institutions need more (not less) diversity broadly conceived—including intellectual diversity—and we should enhance our efforts to make them inclusive, dynamic places of learning through difference. A retreat from affirmative action will just return us to the orchestrated parochialism of the past. We must resist it.”

Roth also spoke to WGBH public radio about affirmative action.