The Defend Affirmative Action Party stands for restoring affirmative action, defending and expanding public education and fighting for the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for undocumented students. We are the longest-standing party on campus and we have proven in action that we have a strategy to win — building an independent, student-led movement and leading by example through direct action.

We are the only party prepared to hold the University accountable for abandoning its defense of affirmative action, refusing to lead the fight to increase public funding for education, becoming more the creature of its corporate donors and less a place that stands for academic freedom.

Student-led struggles have made the University a standard-bearer for integration and equality. When affirmative action came under attack in Michigan in Grutter v. Bollinger, we as the student interveners led the fight to defend affirmative action as co-defendants with the University. In 2003, DAAP led the campus and the nation in mobilizing 50,000 students to march at the Supreme Court as the arguments were heard in the University affirmative action cases. That mobilization won a historic victory upholding affirmative action.

The challenges we face and the opportunities we have now stem from the contradictions coming out of the Grutter case and the increasing conflict between the two poles of leadership in the fight for affirmative action: the student movement and the University administration.

The University’s defense of affirmative action was based on their First Amendment rights to create a diverse student body, rather than the rights of minority students to obtain equality. This emphasis on the power and the rights of the University has created a climate in which minority students are made to feel dependent on the administration to defend their right to be on campus. Now, the University has abandoned its defense of affirmative action both by refusing to express public support for the legal effort to overturn Prop 2 and restore affirmative action, and by allowing minority enrollment to drop precipitously. It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot depend on the University, and we must build an independent movement in order to win now.

The University’s abandonment of this fight is tied up with its increased privatization. Anticipating defeat in the Grutter case, the University raised large sums of private money to use for minority scholarships in order to mitigate the effects of the loss of public scholarships. Through this process, the University has become the most privatized public university in the nation. Those private donors, who are now calling all the shots, are no longer interested in maintaining affirmative action because they are trying to lower living standards and want to bury issues of racism and inequality. This privatization has caused an erosion of academic freedom and has distorted the mission of the University. The only way to restore the public character of the University now is to win a definitive victory for affirmative action.

Students who want to defend affirmative action and public education now must turn to the power of the student body. We need student leaders who are prepared to speak the truth about racism. The vast majority of students oppose racism and want an integrated campus, but if we don’t speak up, we allow the small number of blatantly racist people to determine the climate on campus. The burden of speaking out against racism cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of minority students.

We want a University where everyone can develop to their greatest potential, where research is driven by the needs of humanity, not profit, and where our dreams are not crushed and our talents are not squandered.

We are not just asking for your vote; we are calling on you to act and join the new civil rights movement.

Frank Quinones is a Grad student in the School of Social Work and Lena Cintron is an LSA junior. Both are candidates running with the Defend Affirmative Action Party.

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