APA Brief Affirms Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Campus

Psychological research demonstrates value of diversity in higher education


Newswise — WASHINGTON - Institutions of higher education should be permitted to employ race-conscious admissions practices to promote the many educational benefits a diverse campus offers to all students, according to an amicus curiae brief filed by the American Psychological Association with the U.S. Supreme Court. “Underrepresentation of minority groups poses significant obstacles to effective education of both minority and nonminority students,” the brief states. “Social science research demonstrates that increased campus diversity is a proven remedy for these problems.”

The brief was filed Monday in the case of Fisher vs. The University of Texas at Austin, to be heard by the court in December. In 2008, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas for racial discrimination after being denied admission. Fisher, who is white, blamed the university’s affirmative action program, which considers race and ethnicity when reviewing certain candidates. This is the second time the Supreme Court has heard this case. In 2013, it vacated a decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in favor of the university. A second hearing by that court also found in favor of the university and now the Supreme Court is hearing the case again.

Increasing the representation of distinct racial groups improves intellectual and academic performance for both minority and non-minority students, according to APA’s brief. Furthermore, campus diversity has been shown to reduce prejudice, enhance leadership skills and better prepare students to participate in modern civic society.

The brief also cites psychological research that undermines arguments against a continuing need for increased racial diversity in higher education. One example is the “academic mismatch” theory, which hypothesizes that relatively lower graduation rates among minority students admitted under race-conscious admissions programs result from an academic curriculum too rigorous for them.

“Numerous studies have debunked this myth and proven that a university’s consideration of race as a factor in admissions narrows retention rate gaps between different student groups,” the brief says.

Nathalie Gilfoyle, APA’s general counsel, noted that this is APA’s fifth amicus brief presenting social science research in cases involving affirmative action. “The scientific conclusions we have provided to the Supreme Court are grounded in 85 recent peer-reviewed studies reflecting the contemporary social science research on campus diversity,” she said. “These represent just a sample of the evidence that demonstrates the value of and continuing need for diversity in higher education.” ________________________________________The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.________________________________________

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