Various special recruitment programs for minority students are used to compensate for decades of discriminatory treatment.
The discrimination, often sanctioned by law, kept minorities out of mainstream education. Even in the separate education provided for them, the schools were systematically underfunded and inferior to the education provided to whites.Today, Gary Orfield of Harvard University and lead researcher of the Desegregation Project, observed that the "segregation of African Americans students across the United States (has) increased."
And although blacks are nearly 13 percent of the American population, they are only 9 percent of the undergraduate population and 2 percent of the faculty in white universities. Hispanics are 9 percent of the population and only 6 percent of the undergraduates student body and only 1.6 percent of the faculty.
The United States tried to correct this by passing the 1954 Brown decision, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and further legislation in 1967 and 1972. Only by understanding this historical context do com-pen-satory measures make sense.
It must be clarified that these programs are not like those in the Bakke case, where a white man was denied a slot because of quotas. They are not quotas or slots, but they do take race into consideration to overcome past discrimination.
Examples of these programs would include the Meyerhoff Scholars program at the University of Maryland. It was upheld in federal district court, which found that blacks were still underrepresented and segregated in Maryland in 1993.
Another such program is the King-Chavez-Parks Scholarship program in Michigan, which was established to overcome black and Hispanic underrepresentation among students and faculty in Michigan colleges and universities.
Both the Maryland and Michigan programs are for exceptional academic students, as are most programs like them.
A 1992 survey by the American Council on Education found that only 3 percent of scholarship money is spent on these programs, hardly detracting from scholarships available to white students.
But with college tuition rising to onerous proportions, any money targeted for minority students comes under increasing scrutiny.
Moreover, white Americans generally like to believe that everyone should start off equally (despite our history to the contrary) and resent what is perceived as "special" privileges for minorities.
Therefore, whites tend to stigmatize all minority students, even minorities who are admitted under regular circumstances, in their belief that all or most minority students were admitted with "special" help.
Of course, minority students are affected by this and constantly feel the pressure to prove themselves. This adds to the racial tension on many campuses, so it is the responsibility of college administrators to educate white students about the necessity for these programs.
Again, it is instructive that majority students do not complain about special admissions programs for athletes, band members and the sons and daughters of alumni, who also are usually exempted from meeting regular admission criteria.
For example, the Patricia Roberts Harris graduate fellowships are specially designated for minorities and women, and white women get most of these grants. I have yet to hear a criticism of the Patricia Roberts Harris program.
There is something about race in America, still, that causes the finest minds to become irrational and forgetful of history. Fortunately, a few of those minds, such as the president of the University of Michigan and the dean of the Georgetown Law School, are able to think straight and speak clearly on this most important issue.