restricted access The Educational Value of Diversity
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The Educational Value of Diversity Patricia Gurin With Eric L. Dey, Gerald Gurin, and Sylvia Hurtado U I come from a homogeneously white, small town environment and my experience here has really opened my eyes. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met people during my freshman year who are largely responsible for who I am now. My six best friends could not have been more different from me. Michelle is from Saudi Arabia but is half American, half Thai. Ana is from Madrid, Spain, and is a really strong, feminist woman. Cornelia is African American from Chicago. Suneela is Indian. My roommate , Grace, is Chinese and very religious. Brandi is white but she grew up poor and has beaten the welfare system. She is the most determined person I have ever met. Grace and Suneela are ‹rst generation Americans and still have strong ties to their native cultural traditions and language. And, of course, everybody else offered me perspectives I had never thought about or considered before. I am sure that I could have taken some classes and learned about all of the different things these people have taught me during my years at Michigan . That would have been interesting but because these women became my friends, I got to learn about it and experience it. I think that having the experiences is really the only teacher that ever changes how a person thinks about and sees the world. As fantastic as U of M classes can be, I know that they would never have affected me to the extent that these women have. a white undergraduate writing as a senior at the University of Michigan This young woman from a small town values her experiences with students from diverse backgrounds because they have changed her world. Her experience re›ects the evidence in the social science research provided the courts in the cases testing the University of Michigan’s use of race as a factor in admission. This research demonstrates that a racially and ethnically diverse student body has signi‹cant educational bene‹ts for all students, nonminority and minority alike. We presented the courts a social science argument and evidence on the educational value of diversity and were joined by other social scientists in amicus briefs in the cases eventually decided by the Supreme Court. In a ‹ve-to-four decision in Grutter v. Bollinger et al. (123 S.Ct. 2325, 2337–41), the Court found that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions. . . . Attaining a diverse student body is at the heart of the Law School’s proper institutional mission. . . . The Law School’s claim is further bolstered by numerous expert studies and reports showing that such diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce, for society, and for the legal profession. Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. High-ranking retired of‹cers and civilian military leaders assert that a highly quali‹ed, racially diverse of‹cer corps is essential to national security. Moreover, because universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of the Nation’s leaders, Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 634, the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and quali‹ed individuals of every race and ethnicity. Thus, the Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body. (3–4) When the University of Michigan was sued by Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher over its undergraduate admissions proceDefending diversity 98 dures and by Barbara Grutter over its Law School admissions procedures, we were asked to determine whether, why, and how diversity has educational bene‹ts. The educational value of diversity was to be a cornerstone of the University of Michigan’s arguments, and research evidence was critical. Although the value of diversity had been the rationale for considering race as one of many factors in college admissions ever since the 1978 Bakke decision, the arguments offered in other court cases lacked the strong theoretical rationale and empirical evidence needed to link diversity and education. As it turned out, social science research had great importance in the Grutter and Gratz cases before the Supreme Court. As social scientists, we addressed three issues: Does diversity have educational bene‹ts? How and why might...


Subject Headings

  • Universities and colleges -- United States -- Admission
  • Minority college students -- Recruiting -- United States.
  • Affirmative action programs -- United States.
  • Universities and colleges -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor -- Admission.
  • Universities and colleges -- Admission -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • University of Michigan -- Admission.
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