Discussion of Affirmative Action Kicks-Off Diversity Conference

Mar 28, 2014

  A new Civil Rights Movement-that's what the key note speaker at the University of Rochester's Diversity Conference called for Friday.

President of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger took his support of Affirmative Action to the Supreme Court in two cases in 2003 when he was president of the University of Michigan. The policy prevailed in both instances.

Bollinger called Brown vs. the Board of Education, the landmark case that made racial segregation in schools illegal, the heart of the controversial policy.

“Affirmative Action is born of Brown and born of the effort to advance the society and make it more integrated, as well as to capture the wonderful benefits of difference and diversity,” said Bollinger.

In his speech, Bollinger said the country needs a new Civil Rights Movement and a change in the way diversity is discussed.

“Affirmative Action policy has lost touch with its heart. It becomes somewhat vacuous when you only talk about educational benefits, as if it's disconnected from a social context and a history that is much more complex,” said Bollinger.

Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, talks to UR President Joel Seligman.
Credit Michelle Faust

  Vivian Lewis, Deputy to the President Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity, says the conversation about diversity and integration continues past the end of the conference.

Lewis asks attendees, “To reflect on what they've learned, put it into practice in their specific workplace; try to spread the ideas to others.”

Lewis says the conference examines both the numbers and the heart of surrounding issues of diversity.