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Panelists discuss privilege in Union

Last night a group of four panelists gathered to discuss affirmative action in the United States.

The group spoke to a large group of students and faculty in the Union Theater. Timothy Messer-Kruse, chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies gave a brief overview of the history of affirmative action and addressed the many misconceptions people hold about the issue.

“It is a myth that affirmative action is something of recent origin,” Messer-Kruse said. “The vast history of the government action has been taken to provide privilege to those who are a specific race and until recently many laws were specifically designed to exclude minority groups.”

Marshall Rose, director of the University’s Office of Equity and Diversity, said most of the time people do not think of the decades when whites were granted privileges based on their race.

“You have to consider all of the ways in which whites as a class were given all of these advantages which have been passed down through generations and may still grant a certain class of people privilege over another,” Rose said.

Messer-Kruse noted that from 1855 until World War I, only 1,191 degrees were awarded to black Americans and that in 1950 only 50,000 blacks were enrolled in college.

“Affirmative action is an attempt to remedy a failure of politics,” Messer-Kruse said. “The politics behind this have been ugly since the 1970s and today we are at a crossroads. [Affirmative action] is a convenient political football.”

Affirmative action was originally designed to expand opportunities, but it is sometimes thought of as an artificial quota that reserves specific jobs for minorities, Messer-Krusse said.

College Democrat Ron Collier stated his support for affirmative action.

“For the most part, Democrats firmly believe in affirmative action because of the opportunities it allows,” Collier said. “It is necessary to maintain equality.”

A representative from the College Republicans had been expected to appear on the panel, but had other obligations, an event organizer said.

After panelists spoke, the audience was invited to ask them questions.

One audience member addressed feelings of reverse racism.

“Affirmative action was originally designed in the 1960s because it was morally right and now the discussion of morality has seemed to disappear, do you believe that it has become an immoral thing to do?” he asked Rose.

Rose replied that affirmative action is still necessary and vital to equal opportunities because of racial injustices.

“There are a number of various inequalities that continue to exist in our society and which maybe would be exasperated if it were not for affirmative action,” Rose said.

Errol Lam from the Justice for Carlos Adams Committee questioned the panelists about the decision to not renew former University ethnic studies instructor Carlos Adams’ contract.

“Is this a case at Bowling Green of affirmative action that failed?” Lam asked.

Messer-Kruse replied that if a person of color is more qualified or even equally qualified as another candidate that an institution should work to recruit and hire that individual.

Following the event, Messer-Kruse said he didn’t comment on the Carlos Adams situation because he felt it wasn’t relevant to affirmative action.

“The situation is based on misinformation that I had no control over,” Messer-Kruse said in a phone interview. “It will take its course over time and that is all you can really ask for.”

During the question and answer portion of the panel, Lam encouraged audience members to get involved with the Justice for Carlos committee.

“Things are happening just in our own backyard,” he said.

The panel agreed that affirmative action is still necessary in for equality.

“When you think about African Americans, we have had 200 years in direct slavery and 145 years under Jim Crow laws,” Rose said. “When you think about that, it makes the amount of time where we have had affirmative action seem very short.”

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