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Key Issues and Trends in Affirmative Action Paper

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Psychology

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Research Paper

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Key Issues and Trends in Affirmative Action
By
Francisco J. González
(Expanded & revised text of the presentation given on May 26, 2004 at
Minnesota State University-Mankato)
The role of affirmative action in this institution cannot be more important nor can
its future implementation less challenging. I will briefly discuss some of the most salient
current issues and trends that will impact efforts geared towards the goal of having a
student body, faculty and administrative staff that reflect the diversity of our state and our
nation.
The first thing that we must do, however, is reaffirm our commitment to the goals
of affirmative action. After all, the many initiatives and programs that we collectively
refer to as affirmative actions are just tools; mechanisms to achieve the goal of having a
truly diverse campus. We must first be able to answer the question: why is diversity
important? I asked this same question to my students during while teaching an
American Racial Minority class to my students, all but two of them freshmen or
sophomores of Caucasian/European-American background. While the students indicated
that discrimination is wrong and that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be
allowed to obtain an education, few of my students could think why it was important for
them to interact with peers or faculty of color.
I firmly believe that support for, and a better acceptance by the majority
population of, the tools of affirmative action can be achieved by stressing the importance
of diversity for non-minority students and for our society at large. Non-minority students
should be exposed to the fact that in their future professional, social and even personal
lives they will be interacting with people of color. They must also realize that their own
definition of what means to be “American”, based on assumed shared cultural and
linguistic traits, will be challenged by the continued demographic growth from people of
with their own cultures, traditions, and in many cases languages and religions that do not

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conform to the so-called traditional vision of America.
Caucasian/European-American students must also know that, due to demographic
changes and immigration patterns, societal change is not only inevitable, but rapidly
becoming a reality. It is our mission, as educators and as stake-holders in the success of
this university, to make sure that our students realize the enormous universe of
opportunity and positive change that can (and I hope, will) resulting from these trends.
We must make clear to our Caucasian/European-American students that embracing
diversity does not mean diminishing their own traditions and values; that this is not a
zero-sum game in which gains by one group come at the expense of another.
We must, for example, point out the vast promises for trade, commerce, business
creation and economic opportunity that will be available for individuals who are
comfortable working and interacting with people from a different culture, religion,
ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Our students should recognize that a successful manager, administrator or
politician will have able to understand the particular needs of a diverse customer or
support base. That a successful architect would realize the importance for a traditionally-
raised Chinese customer's request for a house designed according to feng shui beliefs; or
that a successful doctor need to be cognizant of the religious and cultural sensitivities
involved when trying to examine a Somali female patient. In short, our students need to
understand that embracing diversity not only is the right thing to do, but is also the smart
thing to do.
The key issues and trends that I will discuss below will impact the way in which
affirmative action can be used to achieve the goals of diversity. These issues include:
The Hopwood, Grutter and Gratz court decisions and their impact on affirmative
action programs in higher education.
The evolving concept of protected class regarding sexual orientation, resulting from

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Key Issues and Trends in Affirmative Action By Francisco J. González (Expanded & revised text of the presentation given on May 26, 2004 at Minnesota State University-Mankato) The role of affirmative action in this institution cannot be more important nor can its future implementation less challenging. I will briefly discuss some of the most salient current issues and trends that will impact efforts geared towards the goal of having a student body, faculty and administrative staff that reflect the diversity of our state and our nation. The first thing that we must do, however, is reaffirm our commitment to the goals of affirmative action. After all, the many initiatives and programs that we collectively refer to as affirmative actions are just tools; mechanisms to achieve the goal of having a truly diverse campus. We must first be able to answer the question: why is diversity important? I asked this same question to my students during while teaching an American Racial Minority class to my students, all but two of them freshmen or sophomores of Caucasian/European-American background. While the students indicated that discrimination is wrong and that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be allowed to obtain an education, few of my students could think why it was important for them to interact with peers or faculty of color. I firmly believe that support for, and a better acceptance by the majority population of, the tools of affirmative action can be achieved by ...
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