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Published: Thursday, 4/15/2004

Affirmative action policy discriminates, foe says

Affirmative action in higher education is inherently discriminatory and violates the spirit of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education, a national opponent of racial preferences said yesterday at the University of Toledo.

Roger Clegg, vice president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Virginia, said that the Brown decision was about desegregation and nondiscrimination - unlike last year's court ruling allowing race to be considered to some extent in college admissions.

"[Affirmative action] is more about discrimination than nondiscrimination," he said. "It is about treating people differently because of race and ethnicity."

And that, he said, is a "significant and severe" cost, even if one believes that it encourages benefits such as diversity.

Mr. Clegg spoke to an audience of more than 80 people at the UT law school, where his visit was co-sponsored by its Federalist Society chapter. A former deputy assistant attorney general, he graduated from the Yale Law School in 1981.

The Center for Equal Opportunity has been active in opposing racial preferences, and it has sent letters to more than 100 universities - including some in Ohio - asking them to drop or expand access to things such as summer programs and internships that have been available only to certain minorities.

Mr. Clegg said the center supported the lawsuits against the University of Michigan admission policies that were decided last year and favors ballot proposals seeking to end affirmative action in public universities, such as the one that some in Michigan are trying to advance.

Instead of using affirmative action, Mr. Clegg said people should put more focus on solving issues behind things like the failure of many African-Americans to be academically competitive. Those issues include the high number of blacks who are born out of wedlock and the poor quality public schools that many of them attend, he said.

And racial preferences should not be seen as a shortcut for taking care of economic disparities either, he said.

"Universities should not assume that every white kid and every Asian kid is rich," he said. "And they can't assume all blacks come from the ghetto."

After Mr. Clegg's comments, Benjamin Davis, an associate professor of law at UT who is African-American, engaged in a heated series of questions with Mr. Clegg. He said that Mr. Clegg does not provide a model for integration that works, and he walked out of the auditorium, saying, "I just cannot accept this race baiting."



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