Campus Diversity: Taking Allport Seriously

Gordon Allport.jpg

Some key questions are rarely asked about the success or failure of affirmative action programs on college campuses.  Among them are: Does ignorance foster negative racial stereotyping?  Does the greater opportunity for contact between people of diverse races and ethnicities brought about by “race-sensitive admissions” help prejudiced whites overcome their prejudice against blacks and other “people of color”?

Unfortunately, not many good studies out there address these issues in any systematic or candid manner.  Most high-level college administrators and college presidents, however, are quick to assure us that the racial mix they strive to achieve on campus through their affirmative action initiatives promotes greater interracial understanding and good will.  This is certainly what we hear from the leading champions of greater “diversity” on university campuses.  It is the line we get, for instance, from Lee Bollinger, former president of the University of Michigan and now president of Columbia; from William Chace, former president of Emory; and from both Derek Bok and William Bowen, former presidents, respectively, of Harvard and Princeton, who in their influential study, The Shape of the River, tried to convince doubters that preference policies at elite universities have none of the harmful effects critics have long ascribed to them.

The claims of racial-preference supporters such as Bollinger, Chace, Bok, and Bowen are almost always predicated on some version of what social scientist call "the contact hypothesis."  This view, in its most

Russell K. Nieli

Russell K. Nieli

Russell K. Nieli is a Senior Preceptor in Princeton University's James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and a Lecturer in Princeton's Politics Department. He is the author of "Wounds That Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial Divide."

One thought on “Campus Diversity: Taking Allport Seriously”

  1. “Does the greater opportunity for contact between people of diverse races and ethnicities brought about by ‘race-sensitive admissions’ help prejudiced whites overcome their prejudice against blacks and other ‘people of color’?”
    Better yet, are there really all these white bigots bumbling about in need of such therapy?
    The presumption of white racism is nothing more than the chronic playing of the race card. The absurd notion that everyone is motivated by racial animus is so deeply ingrained in our society that many people bend over backwards to prove that they are not racists. Not only once mind you, but every day, a sort of modern secular genuflection where they seek to atone for the sin of being born caucasian and apologize for things they never did to people those things were never done to.
    I don’t play that game.

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