Contrary to popular belief, activism is not dead; protesting is not futile. In the past week, incidents in both Virginia and Philadelphia have reinforced this idea. In Virginia last week, the state’s attorney general warned all state colleges and universities that race-conscious admissions are unconstitutional. Acting on this indirect coercion, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University relinquished its consideration of race in admissions, which of course triggered an outrage among faculty and students. Angered constituents protested heavily and aggressively, and in the end, the school’s Board of Visitors voted eight to five to reinstitute the policies.

A similar situation involving affirmative action in employment occurred in Philadelphia. After noticeable dissent from minority contractors in the city, whose already low participation rate recently began to decline, the city government voted to intensify its affirmative action plans. As a means of enforcement, it has implemented a $300 fine for contractors deemed discriminatory.

These two cases clearly show that activism can still make a difference, even after litigators presented oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. It is becoming clear that there will be many developments on the issue of affirmative action irrespective of the court’s decision. For instance, two anti-affirmative action groups, the American Civil Rights Institute and the Center for Equal Opportunity, pledged last week to take legal action against race-conscious programs and scholarships even before the decision on June 1. The incident in Virginia shows that colleges and universities, feeling the pressure from affirmative action opponents, feel uncertain about their own policies and are willing to take action no matter what the law says.

It is important then to stay updated on current events and to reject complacency. Over the past year, student groups on both sides of the debate have affirmed their convictions and made their opinions public. Though the impact of student action is hard to measure, this display of resolution has at the very least shown the administration and the nation our views on affirmative action, among other issues.

Now, as the University and America wait in limbo for the Supreme Court decision, it is easy to forget avid convictions. Yet, just as before, it is just as important to continue learning about the issue and staying informed on the developments. During times of indifference, key developments often occur amid the negligence of a once enthusiastic public. The developments in Philadelphia and Virginia are two examples where an aware public effected change. It is therefore important that members of this community remember that activism is always a key to change, even when it seems like an afterthought.

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