Affirmative Action and Race Relations Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :


According to Sander, none of these questions have been asked effectively and therefore we as a nation continue to believe that affirmative action is a necessary social development for the creation of a more representative society, where disenfranchisement must be answered by active plans, policies and laws.

Few of us would enthusiastically support preferential admission policies if we did not believe they played a powerful, irreplaceable role in giving nonwhites in America access to higher education, entree to the national elite, and a chance of correcting historic underrepresentations in the leading professions. (Sander, 2004, p. 367)

Sander then goes on, surprisingly to develop the fact that racial preference, at least in elite law school statistical analysis has not been an effective tool in the development of a more representative and diverse population among lawyers and in fact he contends that if it were abolished minority races might actually fare better.

When one takes into account the corrosive effects of racial preferences on the chances of all black law students to graduate and pass the bar, these preferences...tend, system-wide, to shrink rather than expand the total number of new black lawyers each year. If all preferences were abolished, the data in Part VIII suggests that the number of black attorneys emerging from the class of 2004 would be 7% larger than it is. The number of black attorneys passing the bar on their first attempt would be 20% larger. even if the attrition effects of the current system were much smaller than I have estimated, we would still be producing approximately the same number -- and much better trained -- black attorneys under a race-blind system. (Sander, 2004, p. 367)

Sander's work is an exhaustive research article detailing year of admissions and Barr exam statistics, and leaves the readers feeling as if there are significant negative effects with regard to the ramifications of AA in institutions, but especially in institutions where the bar is set very high, such as is the necessary case in law education.

The final research article to be reviewed and critiqued here is one developed in response to previous research which indicated that people are resistant to AA policies, and therefore they are logically resentful when they are applied.

Several explanations have been offered to account for this resistance. Some of the explanations focus on characteristics of the target of affirmative action (e.g., the applicant is underqualified), or on the characteristics of the affirmative action policy (e.g., the policy is not procedurally just), while others focus on the relationship between the perceiver and the target (e.g., whether the applicant is a member of the same sex or racial group). The main conclusion offered by this work is that resistance to affirmative action is based on evaluations of the fairness of the affirmative action policy. What is unclear is whether the impact of the perceived fairness of the policy moderates the effect of the applicant, policy, or type of group membership on subsequent evaluations...criteria used for judgments of fairness are highly dependent on the social context. Judgments of policy fairness are likely to be contextualized by such factors as the type of selection policy, the qualifications of the applicant, or group membership of the perceiver. Thus, we suggest that characteristics of the target, the policy, or the group interact with the perceived fairness of the affirmative action policy to determine evaluations of an affirmative action applicant. (Dietz-Uhler & Murrell, 1998, p. 933)

The findings of the work indicate that the most tewlling features of individual perception of fairness of the model of AA are demographic, i.e. do the individuals belong to a group that could be furthered by AA or one that might be perceived as being slighted by it. This in and of itself gives credence tot the idea that AA could have some negative effects on race relations in the education or business setting.

Research Question

Is affirmative action policy implementation destructive to race relations in higher education and/or business?


The application or perceived application of Affirmative action policies are destructive to race relations in education and the work place, and much more so given the majority status of the individual in the organization. Transparency in application of AA would improve race relations only when applicants given preferential admissions or offered employment are shown to be just as qualified or more qualified than other applicants seeking the same position.


Two business organizations will be asked to participate in a research study looking at race relations and affirmative action policy application. Each will be chosen based on the transparency and fairness tests (based on the hypothesis assumptions of qualifications). One organization will state that they practice AA and the other will not only practice AA but will also follow such practice with transparency showing that the candidate chosen was as qualified or more qualified than the majority candidate not chosen. The study sample will be 100-150 survey responses per organization.


Employees of the company (excluding any who had been hired in the previous year, and having been selected based on AA policy) will then be surveyed to determine their perception of the policy of AA as they see it applied in their organization, and some general questions about AA and hiring practices of the company, as well as race relations within the company, based on known incidence and overall feeling of race relations. Results of the two groups will then be compared. Surveys will be distributed via company email with the permission of the company and results will be tabulated for both companies (utilizing non-identifying procedures) prior to potential publication, for the purpose of review and edification. All names email addresses and any other identifying characteristics will be stricken from the results.

Expected Findings

The company practicing AA policies with the inclusion of transparency and qualifications data will likely have an employee survey base that is more receptive to the general goals of AA as well as the specific manner in which it helps the company and will also likely answer more positively with regard to race relations. The transparent company will also likely have a greater positive response to questions about AA policy fairness of application.

Review of Legal Precedence of Grutter V Bollinger and Gratz V Bollinger

The recent Supreme Court case on affirmative action were reviewed in tandem by the Supreme Court and ruled upon in June of 2003. Each case represented a reverse discrimination claim regarding the utilization of admissions policies at University of Michigan (Gratz V Bollinger)) and Michigan Law School (Grutter V Bollinger. In the findings of the court the university's general undergraduate AA admissions policy was struck down, as not specific enough in purpose while the Law school's AA admissions policy was upheld, on the same grounds.

A in a five to four decision, substantially changed the nature of state imposed affirmative action when it held that diversity could serve as a "compelling government interest" and thus justify public sector preferential programs. Though this ruling pertained specifically to race-based preferential university admissions, it is likely to have wide ranging implications for all public sector affirmative action programs. (Robinson, Franklin & Epermanis, 2007, p. 33)

Robinson, Franklin & Epermanis go on to stress that the ramification of the two cases are limited, but broad as they do not alter the basic two part test, associated with prior legal precedence, and with regard to the constitutionality of AA policies, but instead establish what is important in determining the second part of the test i.e. compelling government interest.

Prior to Grutter, the boundaries for establishing a compelling government interest were very narrow and remedial in nature. Following Grutter, at least for university admissions, these boundaries have been expanded, and the remedial justifications for such preferences have been supplemented by proportional outcomes. This recent shift runs contrary to the longstanding judicial tradition that any state or local government action which treats any citizen differently on account of an individual's race, gender, or ethnic origin is inherently suspect as an Equal Protection Clause violation. (28) (Robinson, Franklin & Epermanis, 2007, p. 33)

The reason though that the Grutter case upheld the UM Law School AA policy has to do with the fact that it used both objective and subjective means to determine admission, and was therefore considered to be more specifically tailored to a goal of improving diversity in the law school and legal profession and demonstrative of a compelling government interest.

On the objective criteria side, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score, undergraduate coursework and performance were considered. On the subjective side, consideration was given to particular strengths, attainments or characteristics applicants possessed. Specific attention could be given to an applicant's employment…

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