Sunday, December 4, 2011

Obama Administration & Increased Racial Diversity in Higher Education

This past Friday, the Departments of Justice and Education sent a 10-page document "Guidance on the Voluntary use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Post-secondary Education" to colleges and universities encouraging them to work to improve racial diversity on their campuses.

The document serves as one way that the Obama administration is working against "race-neutral" policies proposed and endorsed by the Bush administration and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In an article about the document, New York Times journalist Sam Dillon explains that in order to achieve racial diversity the "guidelines" suggest "that institutions use other criteria — students’ socioeconomic profiles, residential instability, the hardships they have overcome — that are often proxies for race."

The document opens noting that there are "benefits of participating in diverse learning environments":
Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students. Interacting with students who have different perspectives and life experiences can raise the level of academic and social discourse both inside and outside the classroom; indeed, such interaction is an education in itself. By choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills.

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