Affirmative Action, Educational Excellence, and the
Civic Mission of Higher Education
adopted October 14, 2002 to replace 1995 statement
Committed through its mission to providing a powerful and contemporary
liberal education to all students whatever their major, the Association
of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) believes that
higher education can do its best work when it embraces the diversity
of ideas and experiences that characterize the social, cultural,
and intellectual world. AAC&U has also long been committed to
fair and equal access to higher education as part of our contribution
to democracy's promise of equal opportunity.
Given these commitments, AAC&U has worked vigorously for many
decades to identify and remove barriers to full participation whether
for students, faculty, or administrators, with special concern for
groups historically excluded from the material and educational benefits
of higher education. The Association applauds the fact that through
affirmative action policies and other creative strategies, colleges
today are more diverse than ever in our nation's history. We believe
inclusive communities are good for higher education, good for the
quality of students' liberal learning, and good for our democracy.
Recognizing also that many parts of the United States society still
remain underserved by higher education, AAC&U and its Board
of directors wish to reaffirm our commitment to affirmative action
as the major strategy for achieving equal opportunity. Affirmative
outreach has proven an effective means for creating the diversity
of students, faculty, administrators, and staff-from all backgrounds
and economic circumstances-so necessary to educational excellence.
AAC&U also recognizes that in their commitment to eliminating
the legacies of societal discrimination, colleges and universities
must be granted latitude and creativity as they devise the most
productive ways to generate diversity on their own particular campuses.
The AAC&U Board of Directors views it as a matter of principle
to state explicitly the association's continuing commitment to incorporating
diversity as a central component of AAC&U's own educational
mission. To this end, AAC&U will maintain and strengthen programs
and publications that support diversity, while also ensuring that
there is a diverse staff to implement the association's initiatives.
AAC&U also commits itself to being a powerful public voice holding
our country to its stated principles of equal opportunity and justice
Persuasive research indicates that for all students, engaging
diversity on campus and in the curriculum promotes intellectual
development, enhances critical thinking, reduces prejudice,
improves intergroup relations, and contributes to student
academic success and satisfaction. Exploring diversity also
produces graduates more likely to engage as informed citizens
in remedying unsolved social problems.
Recognizing the high value of this learning, AAC&U will continue
to commit resources to helping colleges and universities offer such
rigorous, vibrant educational opportunities for all students. AAC&U
also will continue to serve higher education by sponsoring research,
organizing initiatives, and producing publications that examine,
articulate, and strengthen the role diversity plays in fulfilling
the academy's educational and civic mission.
1. For studies that elaborate on the findings mentioned in this
paragraph, see Gurin, Patricia. 1999. New research on the
benefits of diversity in college and beyond: An empirical
analysis. Diversity Digest, Spring. pp. 5, 15.
See also: www.umich.edu/-news-info/Admission/Expert/gurintoc.html;
Smith, Daryl G. and Associates. 1997. Diversity works:
The emerging picture of how students benefit. Washington,
DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities; and
Hurtado, Sylvia, Jeffrey Milem, Alma Clayton-Pedersen, and
Walter Allen. 1999. Enacting diverse learning environments:
Improving the climate for racial/ethnic diversity in higher
education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report Volume 26:8.
Washington, DC: The George Washington University, Graduate
School of Education and Human Development.
Law and Policy Alert on Recent Supreme Court Rulings on
Affirmative Action. (PDF)
Diversity and Democracy:
The Unfinished Work—AAC&U mobilizes coalition
to respond to Supreme Court affirmative action decisions
Amicus Curae Brief supporting
University of Michigan's undergraduate
admissions policy. (See list
of organizations filing supportive briefs.)
Amicus Curae Brief supporting University
of Michigan's law school