Experts from the lawsuits challenging the University”s use of race in admissions joined yesterday to discuss the importance of diversity in the first of a five-part lecture series on affirmative action yesterday.
In the lecture, titled “Making the Case for Diversity in Higher Education,” panel members shared information and statistics ultimately used in the University”s defense which showed the beneficial effects of diversity, notably in the classroom.
“It is our contention that race and ethnic diversity affects not simply the content of what is learned, but also the mode of thinking among students,” said psychology Prof. Patricia Gurin, the author of a study used in the lawsuit that outlines the benefits of diversity in higher education.
“Experience convinced me that having diversity promotes education,” she said, adding that diversity provides multiple points of view and has the ability to make students more active and conscious thinkers.
Education Prof. Sylvia Hurtado noted that surveys showed students going to schools with a diverse student body were more likely in the future to have friends, neighbors and co-workers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than students going to school with a homogeneous population.
“A diverse college environment can begin to break the cycle of segregation,” Hurtado said.
Law Prof. David Chambers shared statistics he gathered while polling former graduates of the law school. He noted that while there were differences among white and minority students in terms of Law School Aptitude Test scores and grade point averages, almost all graduates, white or minority, were very satisfied with their careers and salaries.
“Affirmative action can be defended in that it serves in the interest of diversity in the educational environment,” Chambers said.
Education Prof. Stephen Raudenbush also showed support for the practice.
“The loss of affirmative action would seriously reduce diversity in the contexts of learning,” he said.
Other participants in the panel included University Deputy General Counsel Liz Barry and Law Prof. Christina Whitman, who chaired the event.
Sponsors of the series, which continues Sept. 11 with “Affirmative Action and the Need for Integration,” include the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Women”s Studies Program and the Center for Afro-American and African studies.