(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES – Supporters of affirmative action policies and practices now have one more piece of ammunition in their fight to maintain diversity on college campuses.
Two Harvard University professors released the results of their latest study Aug. 4, concluding that college students believe diversity in a student population is beneficial to their educational experience.
The survey, “Diversity and Legal Education: Student Experiences in Leading Law Schools,” polled 1,820 law students at Harvard and the University of Michigan about their attitudes and opinions regarding their experiences with students of different races and ethnicities.
“The results are only surprising to the degree of how they confirm what lawyers and my colleagues have always thought – that diversity is absolutely essential to legal education,” said Gary Blasi, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.
Gary Orfield and Dean Whitla, professors from Harvard Graduate School of Education, chose to interview students from Harvard and Michigan because both schools draw in a large number of applicants and are extremely competitive, according to the study.
Also, Harvard is a private school and is not facing any legal opposition to its admission policies, while Michigan is a public school and has been sued by individuals opposed to its admissions practices.
Seven out of eight students reported that contact with students of diverse backgrounds changed their view on civil rights and 78 percent of Harvard students said discussions with students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds significantly changed their views on the criminal justice system.
The study also reported that nearly two-thirds of students surveyed said that diversity improved class discussions.
More than 65 percent of the respondents described themselves as white, 10 percent as Asian, 6 percent as African-American, 4 percent as Hispanic and less than one percent as Indian. The remaining respondents identified themselves as foreign, mixed or did not identify themselves with any of the groupings.
-J. Sharon Yee, Daily Bruin (University of California at Los Angeles)