For Immediate Release

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Dawn Michele Whitehead
Interim Senior Director for Communications
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whitehead@aacu.org

AAC&U Affirms Commitment to Campus Diversity, Joins 39 Higher Education Organizations in Support of the University of Texas in Supreme Court Case

Amicus Brief Filed Today Provides Summary of Research and Makes Case for Student Diversity as Compelling Interest in Higher Education To Prepare All Students for Success
Aug 13, 2012

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today that it is joining together with 39 other higher education associations to support the University of Texas in its defense of the use of race in college admissions before the Supreme Court. AAC&U signed a brief of Amici Curiae prepared by the American Council on Education, and submitted August 13, 2012 to the Court.

In signing this brief, AAC&U is building on its long history of advancing engagement with diversity as an essential component of educational excellence. It has frequently affirmed its support for efforts to ensure a diverse learning environment in many contexts, including an official board statement issued in October 2002. That statement notes that “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.” The brief filed on August 13, 2012 broadly summarizes the expanding body of research about the positive educational impact of diversity, and notes that the compelling need to provide students with diverse learning environments has only increased in the past decade as our nation has become ever more diverse.

The brief notes further that: “Diversity prepares students to engage with the modern world, but that is not its only benefit. Diversity serves time-honored, indispensable goals of higher education. It inspires students to lead ‘the examined life’; it prepares them to maintain the robust democracy that is their inheritance; and it enables them to overcome barriers that separate them from one another, divide them from the world they need to know, and block their intellectual development.” Other briefs, including one filed by the American Educational Research Association, further elaborate the expanding body of research proving that “student body diversity leads to significant educational benefits.”

“Given AAC&U’s mission of advancing liberal education for all students, the board of directors is proud to be a signatory to this brief supporting the University of Texas in its case before the Supreme Court,” said AAC&U Board Chair Bobby Fong. “The brief is an eloquent statement of educational principles that have guided AAC&U’s own work for decades and in signing it, we urge the Court to affirm its earlier decision in Grutter v. Bollinger permitting narrowly-tailored consideration of race in college admissions in order to advance the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.”

In 2003, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, AAC&U joined with 29 other organizations to issue a statement, “Diversity and Democracy: The Unfinished Work,” noting that, “higher education has an important role to play in this unfinished work of racial inclusion and civic commitment….engaging diversity on campus deepens students’ individual learning and reaps rich dividends—in both knowledge and values—for democracy.”

AAC&U has used the principles articulated in this statement to advance its work from 2003 to the present day. AAC&U has continued to publish summaries of emerging research on a variety of aspects of diversity, including reports published as part of its Core Commitments initiative, LEAP reports, and the report, The Drama of Diversity and Democracy (2011) which AAC&U recently re-released with a new forward by Ramón Gutiérrez. Last month, AAC&U released the latest analysis of students’ gains in engaging difference in the new LEAP report, Making Progress? What We Know about the Achievement of Liberal Education Outcomes (2012).

AAC&U also has played a proactive role in mapping the deep connections between engagement with diversity and higher education’s mission-level role in nurturing students’ civic capacities to sustain a just and equitable democracy. This year, AAC&U leaders played a key role in the writing and release of a new national call to action released at the White House in January 2012, titled A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future. A Crucible Moment places engagement with societal diversity at the center of a new framework for building civic knowledge and democratic engagement at all levels, from school through higher education and preparation for careers. A Crucible Moment affirms that, “Americans need to understand how their political system works and how to influence it…but they also need to understand the cultural and global contexts in which democracy is both deeply valued and deeply contested.” The Task Force argued that “democratic knowledge and capabilities also are honed through hands-on, face-to-face, active engagement in the midst of differing perspectives about how to address common problems that affect the well-being of the nation and the world.” Only diverse learning environments can adequately advance these outcomes.

“AAC&U’s current strategic plan is titled, ‘Aim High, and Make Excellence Inclusive’ because AAC&U’s board, staff, and membership all know how important it is to our shared future that every college graduate gain the capacities and commitments required to contribute responsibly to our diverse democracy, and to ensure the future of a just and equitable society,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “If anything, the research is even more compelling today than it was in 2003. An excellent college education must include substantive engagement with diversity. Students learn more and more deeply when they learn in diverse environments and are able to engage with fellow students who come from different backgrounds from their own. In signing this brief, we stand together with leaders from across the entire higher education community to support the University of Texas as it tries to ensure this kind of learning environment for its students, and all college students.”

AAC&U’s statements on diversity are available online at: http://www.aacu.org/about/statements/diversity

The brief was filed by the American Council on Education and is available online at: http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Pages/Amicus-Brief-Supreme-Court-Fisher-v-UT.aspx