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Panel discusses affirmation action

Anna Gelhaus | Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Affirmative action will continue to play a role in race relations and admissions at universities, a panel of Notre Dame faculty members said Monday.

Sociology professor David Yamine moderated the panel. The participants also included Rhonda Brown, director of the Office of Institutional Equity, Robert Mundy, director of admissions operations, David Moss, assistant vice president of student affairs and Chandra Johnson, assistant to the president and assistant director of cross-cultural ministry.

“Not a single sphere of life is unaffected by racial equality,” Yamine said. Affirmative action is often misunderstood and provokes strong reactions in society, according to Yamine.

Brown also discussed the history of affirmative action and how the policy affected her personally.

She talked about the recent Supreme Court cases regarding the University of Michigan, and said she believes the debate over racial preference will continue.

“It seems [that] every eight to 10 years there is a threat to affirmative action,” she said.

Mundy explained that the admissions policy the University of Michigan Law School uses is very similar to the one at Notre Dame. Unlike the point system used in Michigan’s undergraduate school, Notre Dame admission officers “look at every application, start to finish,” Mundy said.

Moss expressed his personal experiences with affirmative action. “You could say David Moss was a product of affirmative action at Notre Dame,” said Moss, who received his doctorate in psychology at the University.

Moss also talked about various myths regarding affirmative action, such as the belief that affirmative action has been around long enough and therefore is no longer needed. He cited other myths, such as the belief that affirmative action takes away jobs from the majority and that African Americans should be able to succeed as minorities like other groups, such as Jews or Asians. The idea that racial preference lowers self-esteem and causes the hiring of under qualified candidates were also cited as myths by Moss.

Johnson challenged students to continue the discussion about affirmative action with panels of their own. She provided the audience with statistics on minorities at Notre Dame.

In the past 15 years, diversity at Notre Dame has tripled and currently 20.4 percent of students are from ethnic backgrounds, according to Johnson.

“Without [affirmative action], we can’t be who we say we are,” Johnson said. She challenged students to “ensure you graduate intellectually and socially formed with your spirits intact.”

She related the issue to her own personal stories of racial integration on campus and discussed the experiences of the first African-American students at Notre Dame.