Racial Preference Reconsidered

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When assessing the merits of affirmative action in education, consider this bit of insight from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journal: “I pay the schoolmaster, but ’tis the schoolboys that educate my son.”

In all of the legal wrangling that marks the debate over affirmative action, starting with the addition of the Equal Protection clause to the 14th Amendment in 1868 and leading, most recently, to scrutiny of the University of Michigan’s race-based admissions policy, the learning that goes on outside of the classroom gets little attention.

There’s the lecture hall and the dining hall. Diversity 101. Two students weigh in on how affirmative action is shaping their education, their experience, and their expectations of life beyond the classroom.


Scott Palmer, senior legal fellow, Harvard University Civil Rights Project and counsel, Nixon, Peabody, LLP

Kristin Johnson, third year law student, University of Michigan

Ashlie Warnick, third year law student, University of Michigan