At a time when private and public institutions of higher
education are reassessing their admissions policies in light of new
economic conditions, Affirmative Action for the Future is
a clarion call for the need to keep the door of opportunity open.
In 2003, U.S. Supreme Court's Grutter and Gratz decisions
vindicated the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative
action program while striking down the particular affirmative
action program used for undergraduates at the university. In 2006
and 2008, state referendums banned affirmative action in some
states while upholding it in others. Taking these developments into
account, James P. Sterba draws on his vast experience as a champion
of affirmative action to mount a new moral and legal defense of the
practice as a useful tool for social reform.
Sterba documents the level of racial and sexual discrimination
that still exists in the United States and then, arguing that
diversity is a public good, he calls for expansion of the reach of
affirmative action as a mechanism for encouraging true diversity.
In his view, we must include in our understanding of affirmative
action the need to favor those who come from economically
disadvantaged backgrounds, regardless of race and sex. Elite
colleges and universities could best facilitate opportunities for
students from working-class and poor families, in Sterba's view, by
cutting back on legacy and athletic preferences that overwhelmingly
benefit wealthy white applicants.
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