Newspaper headlines and public forums demand educational reform with growing frequency. Race-sensitive admissions policies are often at the center of these debates. For example, according to the Los Angeles Times on March 21, 2001, the Los Angeles Community College district trustees are scheduled to vote for a resolution to support the University of California’s move to reinstate affirmative action in its admissions policies. This reinstatement has visible student support as seen in the March 15, 2001 rallies at the UC Regent’s meeting in which over 1,000 supporters of affirmative action came out to voice their opinion. This activity closely follows two other perceived victories for affirmative action proponents when two recent court decisions upheld affirmative action admissions policies at the University of Washington and the University of Michigan as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education on February 16, 2001.
But, the Chronicle report says that opponents of Affirmative Action vow to continue the fight, in part by taking the issue to the Supreme Court. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on May 10, 2000 presents one of the compelling arguments against race preferences by Ward Connerly, who after successfully leading the charge against affirmative action in California has focused on national efforts to eliminate race-sensitive admissions policies. Connerly states: "My life experiences tell me that the question ‘Who are you?’ is the most important one we can ask. And when we focus less on group identity and more on individuals and their individual humanity, we are creating equal" ("My Fight").
These articles illustrate that arguments about race-sensitive admissions may oversimplify (or even misrepresent) the issues in an appeal to the emotions of their audience. Taking these statements at face value, one might believe that affirmative action was mainly a response to a shortcoming in college admissions policies and that everyone will be treated equally if we stop talking about race. These types of arguments are a disservice to both sides.
As tensions surrounding race-sensitive admissions continue to grow, proponents of eliminating race-based policies are gaining momentum. A conservative political climate, as seen in the mandates for race neutrality in California and Washington and a recent court decision (Hopwood v. State of Texas), which significantly limits the use of race as criteria for admissions in three states, fuel this charge. Although race sensitive admissions policies are still widely used, a vocal opposition has destabilized the foundation on which these practices are based (Tierney, 1997).
Arguments against race-sensitive admissions overlap and work in concert with each other. Four main charges encompass many of these seemingly disparate complaints into clear areas of discussion: (1) a moral argument which charges that society should be colorblind; (2) an economic charge that argues race-based policies...