“The Future of Affirmative Action: A Panel Discussion from Diverse Points of View.”  

In early February, a subcommittee of the campus College Republicans, motivated by a fall semester full of debates on diversity, racial justice, and the Chief Illiniwek controversy, organized an event entitled, “The Future of Affirmative Action: A Panel Discussion from Diverse Points of View.”

This subcommittee, led by Billy Joe Mills, a sophomore political science major, approached Nate Allen, the voting student member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, and Chancellor Nancy Cantor for help in bringing their plan to fruition. The panel included two students—Billy represented the College Republicans, and Nneka Dudley represented the student chapter of the NAACP—and four faculty members. Professor Vernon Burton (History) served as the moderator; Professor William Trent (Educational Policy Studies) presented a pro-affirmative action position; a participant we will call only “Professor Emeritus” argued an anti-affirmative action position; and Professor Jim Nowlan (Political Science) propounded a middle course. (Chapter 2)

Read the Report
  After the Event  

At the end of the panel, people milled about in small groups. One group that formed among the students centered on a white male who said during the question and answer session that he could not be held responsible for his great-grandfather’s sins. The group that Teresa was talking with quickly joined the conversation. Describing the interaction, Teresa wrote:

Tiasha quickly entered into the discussion by arguing that the University of Illinois does not use Affirmative Action [I was not and am not sure that this is true. I think the point she was trying to make was that the University of Illinois does not have a points system.] She explained that our university uses some type of circular model in which many different elements are taken into account in the admissions process. Tiasha also stated that she got a 25 on her ACT, had an excellent GPA, and went to a really good high school in Chicago. The young man proceeded to state that he had a friend who received a 30 on his ACT and an equally good GPA, but did not get in because he was white. Tiasha then repeated that she also went to a really good high school, which prompted the young man to ask her the name of the school. “Whitney Young,” she replied. He then stated that he graduated from a high school that was nationally ranked and that he had never heard of Whitney Young.

Their discussion continued along these lines for a few more minutes until Tiasha offered to take the discussion up with him at a later date. They exchanged e-mail addresses.

Note:  The text in this section is not included in the EBC report

  Student Participation  

We have come to think of this evening as one of the most significant events of the Brown year, even though the Brown Commemoration network did not organize it. If the panelists and their audience did not produce the discussion of diversity that Teresa had hoped for, and if its spirit may have contributed to the missing of an opportunity described above, the event did spur student action. The student organizers followed through on the debate by establishing “Dialogues on Diversity,” a group of students, including Billy and Teresa, who had differing perspectives but committed themselves to planning future events on themes related to affirmative action and other cultural-political controversies. Inspired and excited by the debate, a second group of undergraduates formed a student debate organization in the fall semester of 2005 explicitly committed to organizing a series of panels on related issues. (Chapter 2)

Read the Report