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Affirmative Action for the Future

James P. Sterba

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 3-8


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pp. 9-10

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pp. ix-xii

...In 2003, I wrote a debate book on affirmative action with Carl Cohen of the University of Michigan. Cohen, a long time critic of affirmative action, had used the Freedom of Information Act to secure data about Michigan’s affirmative action programs. He then gave this data to the Center for Individual Rights, which brought the lawsuits against the University of...

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pp. 1-5

...In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)—the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important decision on affirmative action—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the majority, seemed to put a time constraint on the justification of race-based affirmative action. She ended her opinion with the claim “we expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer ...

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1. Current Racial and Sexual Discrimination

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pp. 6-14

...Surveys in the United States today show that white Americans overwhelmingly publicly ascribe to principles of racial equality and integration. At the same time, 80 percent of whites recently surveyed deny that racial discrimination against people of color is a significant problem. In another survey, 70 percent of whites believe that blacks are treated equally ...

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2. A Legal History of Race- and Sex-Based Affirmative Action

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pp. 15-30

...The first use of the phrase “affirmative action” in the United States is commonly attributed to Executive Order 10925, issued by President John Kennedy in 1961. Two years later, when Kennedy proposed the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he and leading liberals of the 1960s assumed that by simply banning discrimination government could create ...

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3. How Best to Define Affirmative Action

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pp. 31-35

...The degree to which people in general are in favor of affirmative action largely depends on how that policy is described. For example, a Los Angeles Times poll showed that 58 percent of African Americans “opposed special preferences based on race and not merit,” and a Washington Post/ABC poll showed that roughly two out of three women “oppose preferential treatment...

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4. A Defense of Outreach Affirmative Action

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pp. 36-37

...Outreach affirmative action is easily the most defensible form of affirmative action. Even strong critics, like Louis Pojman, Thomas Sowell, and Carl Cohen defend this particular form of affirmative action. Thus, Pojman supports what he calls “weak affirmative action,” which includes the “widespread advertisement to groups not previously represented in ...

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5. A Defense of Remedial Affirmative Action

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pp. 38-53

...Although the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted different positions at different times, it has always held that it is permissible to adopt remedial affirmative action as compensation for identifiable acts of purposeful discrimination committed by that very institution. Of course, it is rare for an institution that is engaging in affirmative action to actually admit that it ...

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6. Objections to Remedial Affirmative Action

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pp. 54-65

...The remedial affirmative action that I have defended in the previous chapter has been criticized in various ways. Specifically, critics have 1) It is not required to compensate for unjust institutions of the distant past. 2) It confuses the legitimate goal of eliminating discrimination with the...

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7. A Defense of Diversity Affirmative Action

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pp. 66-83

...Unlike remedial affirmative action, diversity affirmative action is not grounded in the ideal of remedying discrimination, whether present or past. Rather its goal is diversity, which in turn is justified in terms of either the educational benefits it provides or its ability to create a more effective work force in such areas as policing and community relations, or achieving ...

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8. Objections to Diversity Affirmative Action

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pp. 84-96

...The diversity affirmative action that I have defended in chapter 7 has been criticized in various ways. Specifically, critics have claimed that this form of affirmative action is objectionable for the following reasons...

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9. Affirmative Action around the World

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pp. 97-100

...In his 2004 book, Affirmative Action Around the World, Thomas Sowell argues that not only are the consequences of affirmative action bad for the United States, but also that a study of affirmative action in other countries suggests that things could get worse for the United States if it pursues its ...

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pp. 101-104

...Following the U.S. Civil War, there was a flurry of legal activity that attempted to remedy the injustices of slavery. The withdrawal of federal troops from the South in 1877, together with new oppressive state laws and supportive Supreme Court decisions, however, ushered in a period of Jim Crow laws, culminating in the Supreme Court’s separate but equal...


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pp. 105-122


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pp. 123-128


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pp. 129-132

E-ISBN-13: 9780801458842
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446078

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1