The Review of Higher Education 27.2 (2004) 292-293
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Gary Orfield (Ed.) with Michael Kurlaender. Diversity Challenged: Evidence on the Impact of Affirmative Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Publishing Group, 2001. 307 pp. Paper: $24.95. ISBN: 1-891792-02-4.
As of this writing (summer 2003), many in higher education are waiting anxiously for the Supreme Court Decision on affirmative action, in Gratzner v. University of Michigan. This case is the culmination of years of conflicting court decisions concerning the use of race in college admissions. Diversity Challenged: Evidence on the Impact of Affirmative Action (edited by Gary Orfield with Michael Kurlaender) was developed to respond to legal challenges to affirmative action and, by implication, to state-based initiatives calling for a ban on affirmative action. Written before the Supreme Court decided to rule on affirmative action, the book remains relevant and, indeed, may serve an important purpose after the decision is made.
The legal challenges to affirmative action in admissions and other race-based strategies require that educational researchers understand the legal framework and the relevancy of educational research to legal arguments. This book is the result of a collaborative process bringing together a body of legal and social science research to provide an empirical analysis to a very charged and significant legal milestone.
One of the most important contributions in the text is its success in laying out the legal arguments in ways that highlight the kinds of educational and policy research that are useful in a legal context. Orfield's introduction is particularly useful for this purpose. Not only does this chapter introduce the other chapters but it also frames the legal arguments that are being debated, provides insight into the kinds of social science research that are needed, and summarizes important existing research that counters the legal propositions on which earlier decisions were based. For example, one of the opinions in the Hopwood case suggested that the color of one's skin was not relevant to the diversity of educational experience. Orfield's chapter brings together some central social science research that demonstrates the racialization of our society influencing the perspectives and experiences one has and the structures of opportunity that exist.
Five other chapters describe research precisely focused on the question of whether and how diversity in the student body or faculty has educational value. Mitchell Chang's study, using longitudinal data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, demonstrates the relationship between diversity on campus and important student outcomes such as retention, discussion of issues, and satisfaction. Sylvia Hurtado's study, using national data on both students and faculty from HERI, presents findings related to the impact of diversity on teaching, curriculum, and outcomes. This chapter underscores the ways in which the gender and racial makeup of the faculty influences what is taught and how it is taught. Jeffrey Milem's chapter, using a variety of data sets to investigate the impact of student body and faculty diversity on pedagogy and curriculum, demonstrates the differences [End Page 292] that faculty diversity makes across institutions as well as the important contribution of the climate and mission of the institution. In addition, Gary Orfield and Dean Whitla present the findings of studies at the law schools of Harvard and Michigan describing student views of the significance of diversity for legal education in the context of theoretical propositions on the benefits of diversity. Similarly, using a single case study at Macalester College, Roxane Harvey Gudeman provides substantial data from faculty about the variety of ways that diversity is important to the classroom, learning, and institution.
Moving to an economic analysis, Kermit Daniel, Dan Black, and Jeffrey Smith use existing longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) and IPEDS in a study that suggests the significant role of college quality in the long-term economic gains of underrepresented students of color.
While the courts have been less interested in arguments concerning the role of diversity in meeting the needs of society, the chapter by Timothy Ready illuminates...