Thank you, Advocates for Conservative Thought.
No, we aren’t taking a stance for or against affirmative action in thanking this group. We thank them for triggering an important debate on campus. Besides giving us plenty of news stories to cover, the affirmative action controversy has turned our infamously apolitical campus into a slightly more active, opinionated one. This is undoubtedly a good thing. As college students, we should be engaging in this type of debate for all kinds of issues, from those affecting our university to those changing the world.
College campuses are supposed to be the brainstorming grounds for new ideas. In the history of this country and countries around the world, major movements and protests began in college campuses (think the Vietnam anti-war movement in the ’60s and the anti-sweatshop protests in the ’90s). We are not calling for UM students to radicalize and revolt. After all, there’s no real reason to do so. We are calling, however, for greater student involvement in intellectually stimulating discussions on campus.
For much too long, UM students have lived up to their reputation of being laid-back, beach-loving, party-going football fans that, as a whole, are generally not very interested in serious debate.
Yet, this recent affirmative action controversy seems to be changing that. Students are coming together to voice their opinions, as evidenced by the newfound interest in attending ACT meetings and by the general meeting held Tuesday by COISO, UBS, FEC and SpectrUM, where more than 100 people – members and nonmembers alike – showed up to discuss the issue.
These discussions are taking place because students feel the need to defend their points of view on the subject of affirmative action. In doing so, they are also forced to acknowledge, whether they like it or not, that other points of view exist. By trying to understand these different perspectives, students gain further insight on any given issue.
Analyzing our beliefs, rules and programs periodically is absolutely necessary to keep up with changing values and changing times. If, in doing this analysis, we maintain the same position we had in the past, then we will do so knowing that we choose to think this way and don’t simply accept it as something imposed upon us. Likewise, if we change our position, it will be a conscious, justified choice.
Of course, not all the student body is involved in this debate yet. The next challenge will be getting students out of their secluded dorms and away from sunbathing in the IM fields to participate in the discussions. Perhaps more importantly, it will be a challenge to get commuter students who largely represent the minority students to make an effort to come back to campus or stay to participate in these meetings.
Is affirmative action obsolete? Is it unfair? Should we embrace it because it’s possible that we owe our campus’ enviable diversity to it? We don’t have any answers, but we’re glad someone’s asking the questions.