Why diversity and inclusion on college campuses works

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Americans must realize the benefits of diversity and inclusion in college campuses to demonstrate that America is ‘A Land of Opportunity’ for minorities.

diversity and inclusion

In this Feb. 13, 2012, file photo, demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a panel heard oral arguments in San Francisco in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 209, which barred racial, ethnic or gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting. As the Supreme Court revisits the use of race in college admissions in October 2012, critics of affirmative action are hopeful the justices are poised to roll back the practice.  Supporters of affirmative action say there are benefits of diversity and inclusion on college campuses. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

The Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a new U.S. Supreme Court landmark case (11-345) is expected to have a huge impact on the rights of minorities, especially Hispanics, to access higher education, start their own business and create jobs in our economy. Minorities, including legal immigrants, are considered, under the law, to be a disadvantaged or underserved group through P.L. 95-507.

The U.S. Supreme Court first ruled on the constitutionality of set-asides in 1980 in Fullilove v. Klutznick. In that case, the court upheld that States and municipalities could set-aside funds from the Federal Public Works Employment Act of 1977, for purchases of goods and services from companies owned by members of disadvantaged groups. This set-aside was challenged as unconstitutional, with the argument that the United States Constitution, in the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.

The Supreme Court rejected this claim of reverse discrimination on the basis of race by ruling that Congress can adopt programs that are “race-conscious” in order to remedy past discrimination. Those abuses, by the way,  include abusive practices, barriers, retaliation and denial of services which are still happening today not solely in education, but in businesses as well. The rights of public schools to rely on race, diversity and inclusion, among other factors, to combat discrimination and other abuses were also articulated on a little known May 25, 1970  Memorandum by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. That memorandum was influenced by the work of my mentor, Dr. Henry Ramirez, a prominent Hispanic Educator who, at the time, was serving as a Director of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. In summary, minority set-asides are protected by the Laws of our Land.

diversity and inclusion

U.S. Supreme Court Building. Supporters of affirmative action say Americans must realize the benefits of diversity and inclusion in college campuses to demonstrate that America is ‘A Land of Opportunity’ and minorities.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Benefits of diversity and inclusion on college campuses

Executive Order 13583 now requires that all Public Agencies practice inclusion and diversity at the federal level. The subject was also pioneered by Dr. Henry Ramirez who, during the 70s, authored and promoted The Nixon 16 Point Program based on diversity and inclusion for Hispanics, an agenda credited for the Republican victory on the 1972 Presidential Election.

In his new book, A Chicano in the White House, expected to be published before the November elections, Dr. Ramirez details how he succeeded at convincing the President and his Cabinet Members to practice “inclusion and diversity” for Hispanics in the Federal Government. I will address his effort, which I was honored to have been a part of, in a future OP-ED.

According to a new report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the business startup rate among immigrants has grown by 50 percent while the rate of businesses started by U.S. natives declined by 10 percent from 1996 to 2011. In many cities with large Hispanic populations, the growth and longevity of these immigrant small businesses  has remained miniscule because “inclusion” has not yet been accepted into our culture. Another new Pew Study now shows that Hispanics constitute the largest minority group in the nation’s four year college campuses.

Why are these facts important? Because all Americans, especially conservatives on the far right, must start realizing the benefits of supporting “diversity and inclusion” in higher education to demonstrate that America is A Land of Opportunity and minorities, especially documented Hispanics, have a right to be integrated into the fiber of our nation. A denial, no matter what anyone might claim is simple racial bigotry and a return to the discriminatory practices of the 1950s. I should know, I am a product of adversity and discrimination. I now use it to help convince non-believers, especially bureaucrats, of the value of diversity to help our economy.

Brief history of the case

In 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that diversity was not a compelling governmental interest and that the University of Texas Law School’s use of race for admission was unconstitutional. In response, Texas enacted a law requiring all Texas students graduating in the top ten percent of their class to be admitted to the University of Texas. As a result, the University of Texas was able to achieve the racial diversity that had existed on campus prior to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling.

On June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court abrogated the Fifth Circuit’s decision when it ruled, in Grutter v. Bollinger, that racial diversity could be a compelling interest for the University of Michigan School of Law. Thereafter, the University of Texas began using race as a basis for granting admission.

Ms. Abigail Noel Fisher of Sugar Land, who graduated in the top 12 percent of her class, Rachel Multer and Ms. Michalewicz of Buda, who graduated in the top 11 percent of her class, applied for but were denied admission. In April 2008, they sued the University and its officials in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, alleging that they were denied the right to compete for admission on an equal footing with minority students in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. On August 17, 2009, the district court ruled in favor of the University of Texas based upon the Supreme Court’s holding in Grutter.

Small businesses support in diversity and inclusion

I earned a graduate degree from The University of Texas which made it possible for me, a documented immigrant, to launch my career, start several small businesses and shape my legacy as a champion of diversity and inclusion. The University has recognized me as a Prominent TEXAS EX and I am proud of the widespread support that has been shown toward the University of Texas Diversity and Inclusion Admissions Policies. I was honored to have contributed to the filing of an amicus brief, on behalf of the small business community in support of my alma mater. It was prepared by Anthony Robinson, Esq. and Sarah Vonderling, Esq., two life-long advocacy colleagues of mine through the Law Firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, in Washington, D.C.

Our Amicus Brief articulates that “the government has a compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity in higher education and that holistic, individualized admissions programs that take into consideration many factors including race are permissible under the Constitution.”  It is very fitting that the UT’s slogan, “What’s Start Here, Changes the World,” will affect many generations to come. Let me conclude by asking you, now that you have read the subject matter, to take a few moments and vote on this POLL to let VOXXI and the world know how you feel about diversity and inclusion. Your vote, like the one you will cast in November, makes a difference!

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