Wednesday, May 18, 2005

An Open Letter To Senator Barbara Boxer

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Sen. Boxer:

As an individual committed to fairness and equal opportunity, I urge
you to oppose any effort to eliminate affirmative action in higher

For most of our nation's history, the doors of many of the nation's
finest educational institutions were firmly closed to women and
people of color. Racial and ethnic discrimination in federally-funded
activities was outlawed with passage of Title VI of the 1964 Civil
Right Act and gender discrimination prohibited with passage of Title
IX of the education Amendments of 1972. Nevertheless, educational
opportunities for women, the disabled, and people of color are still
limited by discrimination and stereotyping and affirmative action
programs help level what remains a tilted playing field.

Affirmative efforts to extend equal educational opportunities to
qualified women, the disabled, and people of color have been underway
for over twenty five years and span a broad range of activities
intended to make educational opportunities accessible to all

Such activities include:

-providing targeted scholarships and other targeted financial aid;

-providing additional review of applications by admissions committees
looking at other merit factors in addition to grades and test

-making targeted recruitment efforts for undergraduate and graduate
admissions, as well as for special educational programs; and,

-providing mentoring, counseling, and other support programs.

There is substantial evidence affirmative action programs have made a
crucial difference for countless qualified individuals whose talents
would not have surfaced without the opportunity provided by such
programs. Discrimination and inequities continue to exist, and as a
result, women and people of color continue to lag behind by many
educational measures. For example:

Approximately 18% of all college students are African American,
Latino or American Indian compared with 28% of the college-aged

Only 33% of African-American and 36% of Hispanic high school
graduates ages 18-24 attended college in 1993, compared with nearly
42% of whites;

While women receive 39% of doctorate degrees, they are awarded only
12% of engineering doctorates, 12% of physics doctorates, and 22% of
mathematics doctorates;

Participation by people with disabilities in the gainful aspects of
life has been dismal 15-20%;

African Americans receive 4% of doctorate degrees, Hispanics receive
2% of doctorate degrees, and Asian Americans receive 6% of doctorate

Education is so fundamental to virtually every aspect of social and
economic opportunity in America. More than ever, educational
achievement is linked to economic security and advancement for
individuals as well as the nation as a whole. Schools bear the unique
responsibility of preparing the future leaders of the country to
effectively live and lead in a multicultural society. In an era when
America's competitive advantage lies in its ability to leverage the
diversity of its people, a diverse, educated nation is a stronger
nation economically and otherwise. As we approach the 21st Century,
our commitment to these programs is more important than ever.


Richard Roehm