10/19/2012 09:51 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Acting Affirmatively

In the wake of oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court about the future of affirmative action in higher education, several experts foresee conservative justices overturning the law. Others believe that the court will strike down portions of the policy. Few believe that it will remain unchanged.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race by recipients of federal funds. Shortly after the act was signed, colleges and universities voluntarily began to take affirmative action to increase higher education enrollment opportunities for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and other minorities. Within four years, according to the Census Bureau, student enrollment from these diverse populations began to climb steadily.

As a former vice provost at a public university, provost at an urban private university, and now president of a mid-sized private university, I can assert that if one's goal is to diversify enrollments, then affirmative action has been an effective practice. I have seen firsthand the positive impact it has made in regard to educational access and student populations. That being said, my experience over the years has taught me that institutions must do more than just rely on affirmative action to do the job of diversifying college campuses. It cannot be the only thing used to provide equal educational opportunities to students because, as we know, with the banging of a justice's gavel, the entire existence of affirmative action can change.

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