Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Activist: ‘Get beyond race’

The continuation of racial preferences only perpetuates stereotypes about minorities and should be abolished, a black activist who opposes race-based affirmative-action policies argued Thursday night.

Ward Connerly — the University of California Board of Regents member best known for his leading role in passing California’s Proposition 209, which banned race-conscious decisions by state-funded agencies — discussed his vision for a colorblind education system with about 100 students in Harris 107.

“What I think we need to do is fully get beyond race,” said Connerly, who was brought to campus by College Republicans. “Folks in this nation are marrying across race, having children — and the categories themselves are becoming meaningless.”

Affirmative action has been highlighted recently because of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the University of Michigan’s admissions policies. The court is expected to issue a decision in June in two cases brought by white students who were denied admission and claim less-qualified minority applicants were given unfair treatment.

Connerly said he is confident the court will rule against Michigan’s policy, which awards extra points to minorities applying to the school.

Such a policies assumes minorities would not be accepted to schools based on qualifications alone, he said.

“We have established the mind-set that black people can’t perform academically,” Connerly said. “If you want to send the message that black people can be competitive, you open the doors and let them compete.”

Henry Bowles, vice president of College Republicans, said schools should admit students based only on academic merit.

“I don’t think there is any value to diversity at all,” said Bowles, a Medill freshman, arguing two individuals of the same race have as much to contribute as two students of different races.

The audience waited until Connerly opened the floor to questions to voice their own opinions. In a brief but heated exchange, one student interrupted Connerly and demanded the speaker give data to support his claims. Connerly said he was speaking from personal observation.

Audience member Tony Williams said he was not surprised by Connerly’s message.

“He sounds like a really typical Republican,” said Williams, a McCormick sophomore. “Nothing he said is new.”

Due to organizational problems, College Republicans canceled a Wednesday bake sale in which they planned to charge minority students lower prices for baked goods to showcase their view of the “price” of affirmative action.

Michael Powell, director of equal employment opportunity at NU, said it’s not practical to stop considering race as an admissions factor.

“How can (Connerly) justify and rationalize a system that is colorblind when America isn’t?” Powell asked after the lecture.

But Connerly said current policies don’t put all members of society on an equal playing field.

“We have to provide the access, but we have to provide it within the rules of the game,” he said. “The basic rule of the game is that we should all be afforded the same treatment.”

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Activist: ‘Get beyond race’