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Arizona Joining Other States: Banning Affirmative Action

It is not surprise that voters in Arizona passed Proposition 107, which bans Affirmative Action programs in state governments, which includes public colleges and universities. For more information about the ban, please see Inside Higher Ed’s great article: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/11/03/arizona

My home state banned Affirmative Action years ago and the major consequence was that less minority students enrolled in the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. The standard reasonings for banning affirmative action vary from: we are all equal now, it is unfair to qualified students, it is racist, and that it is unnecessary. These and other reasons really offer a narrow point of view. If we were to offer an Intersectional analysis to the topic, we could see how it is too easy to dismiss the importance of access and not think about the ways in which gender, race, class, immigration status, parents’ education levels all play into the educational success rates for students.

If we could statistically track that low performing schools also have high graduation rates that compare to high performing schools, then there might be some parity. But, alas, there is more going on here. We have to look at the bigger picture and make connections between different things that influence student success. And, banning affirmative action merely makes the situation worse. The Higher Ed article discusses how banning affirmative action will be felt harder at the graduate school level and I do agree with this. Graduate school enrollment is where we really see more homogenous student populations. By banning affirmative action programs diversity will be lost.

The thing that is assumed here is that the students who qualify under affirmative action programs must be underqualified and my friends this is not always the case. Instead, what the program might offer is to make the incoming cohort more ethnically diverse or diverse based on gender. That is, the students might be equally qualified. The affirmative action program might also be something that offers more mentorship or financial assistance once the student is enrolled based on her or his qualifications.

Again, there is more here. Based on the support for SB 1070 in Arizona and the passage of Prop 107 in the state, it is safe to say that there is a definite backlash against people of color (Latino residents in particular) in Arizona. We live in a time of such divisive politics and Prop 107 only makes this divide worse. I fear that the we are in era in which this is now a more common sentiment: race baiting, nativism, and increased suspicion of “others.”

My last comment is more of a disclosure than anything, I got into university based on my academic record. I did enjoy the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Summer Bridge experience at San Diego State University. This program offered a bridge from high school into the college experience. We sat in Math, English refresher courses and other workshops to help us prepare for the Fall term. I mostly remember it as a fun month in San Diego.  Besides this, I cannot remember any other benefits received solely based on race.

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