To the editor:
Of course KU isn't vulnerable to lawsuits like the ones against the University of Michigan. But that's hardly something to commemorate.
KU won't be accused of practicing affirmative action to increase the number of minority students, because KU doesn't practice affirmative action and hasn't increased the number of minority students. In 1984, the year in which most current KU freshmen were born, KU had a student population that was 81.6 percent white. In 2002, KU's student population was 81.6 percent white. No change in 18 years.
Affirmative action is about "action." You have to actually do something to stop discrimination and take into account the discrimination many children face throughout their educations. But the U.S. Department of Labor has at least twice faulted KU for not adequately practicing legal, federally mandated affirmative action and for "underutilizing" minorities in its work force.
When Robert Hemenway took over, he took action to dismantle the programs designed to create a more egalitarian campus. As a result, KU doesn't even have an office of affirmative action anymore.
Yes, KU dodged potential "reverse" discrimination lawsuits. Instead, KU has faced more than 40 "real" discrimination lawsuits. Instead, the number of African-American students at KU decreased from 798 in 1984 to 717 in 2002. Both of these conditions are exactly the opposite results of what would happen if affirmative action were no longer necessary.
Unlike KU, the University of Michigan has a right to be proud to be a standard-bearer in the battle for adequate remedial or "affirmative" action.