By Leah Apothaker, NCJW Intern
Last year, when the professor of my black politics class informed us that affirmative action might be in jeopardy, I didn’t believe him. Who knew that only a few months later, I’d be rallying with NCJW and our coalition partners outside the US Supreme Court in favor of affirmative action the morning of the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin oral arguments? The plaintiff in the case, Abigail Fisher, is a white student who believes she was denied admission at UT because of her race. Should the court rule in her favor, they would overturn their 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which allowed race to be one of many factors considered during the college admissions process. This outcome would be damaging—not only for students of color, but also for the white students who benefit so greatly from a diverse student body and the civil right of equal opportunity.
At the rally, an organizer handed me a sign that read, “Diversity equals success.” Many speakers told personal stories, quoted think tank studies, cited admissions statistics, and repeated the message of the sign I held. As a student I couldn’t help but wonder, is diversity really the key to my success?
When applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to attend a university that championed diversity as a priority. In high school, my peers and I were all the same—white, upper-middle class, third and fourth generation Americans. While we may have each had different academic strengths and interests, I had little to learn from their life experiences simply because we had such similar roots. I believed then, as I do now, that a vital component of education is discussion and disbursement of ideas among students and professors both in and out of the classroom. When diversity doesn’t exist in a student body, the range of perspectives represented diminishes. When diversity doesn’t exist in a student body, students are denied opportunities to learn and grow from one another. When diversity doesn’t exist in a student body, we are allowed to remain ignorant.
College shouldn’t be a bubble where students aren’t challenged to alter our perspectives or ways of thinking. It should prepare us to understand others and learn to work together to achieve great things. Diversity works for students. By preparing us for reality, it sets us up to succeed. Diversity equals success.
Now a senior at The Ohio State University, I’m the beneficiary of a student community beautifully impacted by multiculturalism and ethnic and racial diversity. I value the additional admissions consideration my university provides to first generation college students and students who bring “cultural, economic, racial, or geographic diversity” to the student population. Why? Because I, like the students at UT, know these considerations have helped enrich and further my education.