GW officials explained the University’s position on affirmative action to an audience of 30 students Tuesday night, noting GW’s recent filing of an amicus brief for the current University of Michigan case supporting affirmative action.
Outside panelists also discussed affirmative action in institutions across the United States, to the primarily minority audience in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.
Despite a small turn-out, organizers said they were pleased with the event because it spread valuable information to students.
Tanese Horton, assistant director for undergraduate admissions, said GW has no specific affirmative action program but that diversity is a major goal of the University. She said GW tries to achieve its goal by considering each student in the context of his high school and the opportunities afforded to him there.
“GW does stand for some type of representation of all colors and ethnicities,” Horton said. “We are constantly striving to have a broad representation of all students.”
Roger Pilon, vice president for Legal Affairs at the CATO Institute, said he firmly opposes affirmative action.
Pilon said he advocates the abolishment of public education and the complete privatization of the educational system in the United States.
He suggested that racial, gender or ethnic inequality in higher education is related to problems in the family as well as those in society, and maintained that the government has no role in resolving current inequalities through any kind of affirmative action program.
“Affirmative action programs are unconstitutional based on freedom of association,” Pilon said. “We have the right to associate or not to associate with any other person, and all of this is reduced to the issue of personal sovereignty.”
Marisa Demeo, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was also on the panel.
Demeo said she supports affirmative action and the University of Michigan in its Supreme Court case. The case, which stemmed from the complaints of two white students denied admission last year, will be heard at the Supreme Court April 1.
Demeo drew claps and laughs from the students in the midst of a somewhat tense atmosphere.
“Affirmative action is needed to remedy past as well as current forms of discrimination,” Demeo said. “It is needed to establish a diverse learning environment and economically, to help minorities reach their potentials.”
Supporters and opponents of affirmative action said they came out to learn more about the cause.
“I’m for affirmative action and that’s why I wanted to be here,” freshman Trinh Tran said. “I want to hear the different perspectives.”
“I believe that affirmative action is unconstitutional,” sophomore John Walker said. “I would like to hear the opinions of the gentleman from the CATO institute.”