How Anti-Affirmative Action Admissions Laws Impact Campus Diversity Efforts

Dr. Courtney Cogburn
Dr. Courtney Cogburn

Courtney D. Gogburn, an assistant professor of social work at Columbia University, and Liliana M. Garces, an assistant professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University, conducted a study of administrators who had responsibility for diversity matters at the University of Michigan.

The authors wanted to see how the passage of Proposal 2 in 2006, which banned the use of race in admissions decisions at state universities in Michigan, impacted the mindset of diversity officers at the university. Dr. Cogburn earned a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and Dr. Garces conducted post-doctoral research there.

The survey found that the law shaped the work of these administrators that was detrimental to the support of diversity-related initiatives on campus. The authors found a reluctance by administrators who are charged with diversity missions to deal specifically with race, although the law prohibiting the use of race relates only to admissions decisions.

Dr. Garces notes that “after the law, the very people who were supposed to be supporting students felt disempowered and that they could not talk about race or racism. That’s problematic because the research shows that supporting racial diversity on campus requires active, sustained work on campus for students to be supported.”

The authors suggest that “institutions operating in an anti-affirmative action context would benefit from proactive policies and practices that empower administrators in legally restrictive environments and support conversation and action that directly address the ways race continues to matter on college campuses.”

The article, “Beyond Declines in Student Body Diversity: How Campus-Level Administrators Understand a Prohibition on Race-Conscious Postsecondary Admissions Policies,” was published in the October issue of the American Educational Research Journal. It may be accessed here.

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