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Who Gets In?

For nearly three decades, affirmative action has helped bring diversity to college campuses even as it raised troubling questions about merit and reverse bias. Now, as judges, politicians and voters grow increasingly hostile to affirmative action programs, we look at their history at Stanford and explore how they work today.

By Bob Cohn

The crowd filled Memorial Auditorium, spilling into the aisles and through the massive arched doorway to the concrete steps outside. Nearly 2,000 students, faculty and staff had gathered to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., who had been shot dead four days earlier. Stanford University Provost Richard Lyman was plowing through his prepared remarks on King's legacy when a group of 60 activists from the Black Student Union barged on stage and seized the microphone. After reading a four-page indictment accusing the University of taking only "token, symbolic" steps toward racial equality in admissions and employment, the BSU leaders issued 10 demands and marched out to a rousing ovation. Within hours, the University agreed to most of the items on the list, vowing to increase the number of black students, faculty and staff. It was April 8, 1968: the birth date of affirmative action at Stanford.

Nearly three decades later, on a campus some 3,000 miles to the east, a very different group assembled to address a similar topic. Forty college presidents and top officers, joined by Washington officials and big-name constitutional scholars, huddled at Harvard last May for two days of strategy sessions in defense of affirmative action. The agenda was simple: Devise a plan to protect campus race- and gender-based preference programs from increasingly hostile fire from judges, politicians and voters -- and do it fast. Instead of rallies or sit-ins, these bureaucrats-turned-activists chose the weapons of the elite: op-ed articles, friend-of-the-court legal briefs, full-page newspaper ads and a new round of research to prove that diversity enriches the education of college students. Says Gary Orfield, professor of education and social policy at Harvard and one of the organizers of the meeting: "There was a tremendous urgency."

In just 28 years, what started as a radical idea has become entrenched policy at most universities, protected by the very administrators who at one point were considered the enemy. At Stanford, affirmative action programs have mushroomed since 1968, helping to change the composition of the student But here, as elsewhere, the drive for diversity has stirred passions, igniting an emotional debate on campus and among alumni about race, merit and discrimination.

the backlash against affirmative action has never been more powerful. In March, a federal appeals court ruled that the University of Texas Law School had to scrap its admissions program. What was stunning about Hopwood v. Texas was not the decision itself -- the Texas policy relied on separate tracks for white and minority applicants and was widely regarded as unconstitutional -- but how the court boldly reached out to repudiate the Supreme Court's 1978 landmark, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke , which has guided affirmative action in university admissions for nearly two decades. Though the Hopwood ruling applies only in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, it creates a precedent that could be used in future legal challenges.

Beyond the courts, affirmative action is under unprecedented attack in the political arena. In California, voters in November will decide on a ballot measure -- the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) -- that would bar public institutions from considering race and gender in college admissions and state hiring decisions. The CCRI measure follows a controversial move by the UC regents in July 1995 to abolish race-based hiring and admissions policies on the nine UC campuses (student population: 162,000). Meanwhile, affirmative action promises to be a pivotal issue in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, one of the few matters of policy on which there remain stark differences between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

As a private university in California, Stanford isn't directly affected by the CCRI, the UC regents vote or the ruling by the Texas appeals court. But these decisions, taken together, make the environment for affirmative action more tenuous, putting Stanford and other universities on the defensive. With that concern in mind, Stanford President Gerhard Casper waded into the debate last October. In a speech to the Faculty Senate, he defended affirmative action as consistent with the wishes of the founders and the mission of the University. Casper said Stanford has a responsibility "to find and educate those who can become the leaders of the future in a multiethnic and multiracial society. Alas, our society is quite color-conscious, and we therefore cannot yet afford to be colorblind."

IT'S NO MYSTERY why the debate over affirmative action so often degenerates into a shoutfest in which neither side hears the other. Reasonable people simply disagree about what the term means. Supporters see affirmative action as a set of recruiting programs followed by benign race- and gender-based preferences. The aim, they say, is to ensure that jobs, government contracts and university slots are given to qualified women and minorities in roughly the same proportion as they exist in the general population. In this view, affirmative action is a fair response to the historic inequities suffered by minorities and a useful tool for fostering cross-cultural education.

Opponents say affirmative action is an excuse for quotas that reserve a guaranteed number of jobs or slots for minorities regardless of their qualifications. It's reverse discrimination, they say, unfair to whites who are being held liable for the misdeeds of previous generations. And, they maintain, it is harmful to minorities themselves because of the stigma attached to receiving preferential treatment. ( "The Case For" and "The Case Against" ).

In truth, affirmative action can be any of those things. The spectrum of programs under its umbrella runs from simple outreach to transparent quotas. The policies at most universities and companies fall short of explicit quotas. Sometimes, though, managers can become so fixed on attaining specific numerical goals that they adopt what the Hoover Institution's John Bunzel, a student of race relations, calls "quoals."

At Stanford, where there is no evidence today of quotas, affirmative action still breeds resentment and frustration in some quarters. Opponents say they are uneasy speaking out, especially on a campus where, according to a Stanford Daily poll last spring, two-thirds of the students endorse affirmative action in admissions. "Some students equate opposition to affirmative action with racism," says Jeff Giesea, a senior who is editor of the Stanford Review , a conservative weekly. "Nobody wants to be called a racist."

The problem with these programs, of course, is that there are a fixed number of spaces for students and faculty at Stanford, and the competition is intense. In his speech, Casper acknowledged it would be "hypocritical to suggest that affirmative action, even without quotas, does not diminish the opportunities for some. . . ." Or as Lyman puts it, "The law says no discrimination, but the policy really is about discrimination of a certain kind." Lyman, who presided over the buildup of Stanford's affirmative action programs as University president in the 1970s and still supports them today, says, "At times, it's damned annoying. At times, it is reverse discrimination."

And there is the dilemma: How can a university do its part to correct society's injustices and bring together students of diverse backgrounds without injuring some nonminorities? It's a question that troubles many of those who have long followed the debate. "This is not right versus wrong," says Bunzel, a one-time supporter of affirmative action who has grown skeptical. "This is right versus right. We've got conflicting principles here." History Professor Al Camarillo, a Mexican American who came to Stanford as an assistant professor in 1975, says affirmative action "is the struggle to achieve diversity through a policy that has problems. But we don't have any better policies."

The Early Days

The phrase "affirmative action" entered the lexicon in a 1965 speech by Lyndon Johnson at Howard University. LBJ declared that recipients of federal contracts, including universities that accept government research funds, must take "affirmative action" to increase their number of minority employees. Five years later, Richard Nixon and his labor secretary, George Shultz, went a step further. Under the Nixon-Shultz so-called Philadelphia Plan, federal contractors were required to submit to the Labor Department "specific goals and timetables" for the hiring and promotion of minorities and women.

At Stanford, the admissions office began seeking out black students in the mid-'60s. In 1960, for example, the entering freshman class included just two blacks. By 1967, there were 37 blacks in the freshman class. On April 2, 1968, the committee on the Study of Education at Stanford (SES), which had just completed a massive 10-volume review, released its report on undergraduate admissions. The study wryly took note of the promising trend toward diversity. "For most of its history, Stanford's record in the education of students who are outside the mainstream of white, middle-class America leaves much to be desired. In the last three years, the record has improved to the point where it can now be characterized as merely bad," wrote Bob Rosenzweig, an official in the provost's office and the author of the volume on admissions.

The SES report concluded that "special efforts to enroll Negroes are essential from a moral point of view." It made 12 recommendations, ranging from recruiting at junior colleges to placing less emphasis on the SAT scores and grade point averages of minority applicants. The key suggestion was: "Admissions and procedures should favor applicants from minority groups."

The report might have ended up gathering dust on a library bookshelf. But on April 4, two days after the draft was released, King was murdered. The SES recommendations, seen as ambitious long-term goals by the white liberals who served on the committee, quickly came under fire for not going far enough.

It was in this highly charged climate that the BSU issued its demands. "We felt under the gun," recalls Lyman, who adds that the conflict produced "constructive excitement" that triggered more aggressive diversity programs. After King's death, the University agreed to launch a full-scale effort to recruit black faculty, to try to double the number of black students and staff and to initiate a pilot program to admit at least 10 minority students (five black, five Hispanic) who did not meet normal admissions requirements but showed potential for success at Stanford. Recalls Rosenzweig: "Call them goals, call them quotas. We intended to do it."

The only BSU demand the University refused to consider was that Rosenzweig himself be fired. In a private meeting at Tresidder that week between leaders of the BSU and the University, one student denounced Rosenzweig as a "racist motherf -- -- -." It was a sign of the tension, relieved only a bit by a black female student who leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Don't take it personally, Mr. Rosenzweig."

Rosenzweig stayed, helping to carry out the University's new policies and eventually serving as the vice president for public affairs. Now back in Palo Alto after 10 years as president of the Association of American Universities in Washington, he looks back on those early days and acknowledges a few mistakes. The pilot program to admit explicitly unqualified students was the biggest error, a disservice to those it was designed to help. "We did that for a couple of years, and it was a disaster," Rosenzweig says. "They simply weren't prepared." He also regrets the decision in 1970 to add Native Americans to the two other minority groups -- blacks and Mexican Americans -- targeted for "special consideration" by the admissions office. In 1970, for example, 31 Native Americans were admitted to the freshman class, and 22 enrolled. "They were unprepared academically and bewildered culturally," he says.

As minority enrollment began to creep up, the University resisted pressure to hasten the pace of change. In February 1972, the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (C-UAFA), a panel named by the Faculty Senate, match the nation's or region's makeup. "The adoption of such quotas would bring to the University students who are poorly prepared for what it can offer," the report said. The committee also voted against a proposal that the files of minority applicants be read only by members of that minority group, reasoning that, to ensure consistency, the same panel should read every application. A few months later, minority law students demanded the University establish a quota of 50 minority students -- 20 black, 20 Chicano, 10 Native American -- in each law school entering class of 160. The law faculty said no.

For the most part, white students and faculty at Stanford seemed to accept affirmative action in the 1970s. But elsewhere, challenges to race-based preferences emerged. Stanford had enough confidence in its position that it helped to lead the defense of affirmative action in a case that reached the Supreme Court. The medical school at UC-Davis had a policy of reserving 16 of the 100 places in each class for members of certain minority groups. Allan Bakke sued the school, claiming that, as a white student, he had been unfairly excluded from competing for one of those 16 places. Lawyers from Stanford, Columbia, Penn and Harvard joined to write an amicus brief defending affirmative action in admissions. In his pivotal opinion in the 1978 Bakke case, Justice Lewis Powell sided with Bakke but relied heavily on the universities' brief, declaring that while race could not be the only factor in an admissions decision, it could be one factor.

Myra Strober came to Stanford's Graduate School of Business as a lecturer in 1972. She was the first woman to teach at the GSB -- and there were only five female students that year in the entering class of 350. She was hired about the same time as Barbara Babcock in the law school and Lily Young in engineering. Strober remembers the University as openly boastful about the new women, treating them like some sort of prize orchids. "They put the three of us in a van and drove us to a news conference in San Francisco," she says. "They were very proud." Now a professor in the school of education and an expert on women's education and employment, Strober says there is no ambiguity about how she and the others arrived at Stanford at the same time. "We were affirmative action hires. I'm an affirmative action baby."

Strober's story reflects the University's efforts to expand faculty as well as student diversity. In 1972, there were just 50 blacks, Hispanics and Asians in tenure-line positions; they represented less than 5 percent of the faculty. At the same time, women made up less than 7 percent of tenure-line faculty. To bring up the numbers, the provost's office assigned Arthur Bienenstock, a professor in materials science and applied physics, as Stanford's first Faculty Affirmative Action Officer.

Bienenstock had a lot of support. There was an internal push to diversify, enough money to engage in bidding wars for the most sought-after minority scholars and strong backing, even cajoling, from the federal government. During the six years he served in the post, Bienenstock helped bring to Stanford some first-rate minority and female scholars: Clay Carson and Al Camarillo in history; Bill Gould and Barbara Babcock in law; Art Walker in applied physics; Ewart Thomas in psychology; Elizabeth Traugott in linguistics and English.

Bienenstock's secret weapon was a pot of money known as the Affirmative Action Fund. Here were the resources to create faculty slots, known as billets, in departments that didn't have the budget to afford a new hire. That way, when someone scouted a talented minority or woman, the University could be ready to make an offer even if, say, the sociology department had no available money. Bienenstock also believed in flexibility, offering package deals for spouses, introducing a maternity leave program and allowing junior faculty lighter teaching loads in recognition of their informal but sometimes time-consuming duties to counsel minority students.

As more minorities arrived on campus, incidents of racial strife increased. In 1987, following some friction between white and black students in Ujamaa House, President Donald Kennedy created the University Committee on Minority Issues (UCMI) and gave its chairman, Al Camarillo, a broad mandate to examine race on campus. In a 244-page report issued in 1989, UCMI called for a new commitment to affirmative action. The final report recommended adding 30 minority faculty over the next decade and doubling the enrollment of minority PhD students within five years. It also suggested curriculum changes to double the number of courses focusing on American racial minorities from 20 to 40.

Kennedy and Provost James Rosse praised the "extraordinary quality" of the report but added that some of the recommendations "may prove more difficult" and others "may not be workable at all." Angered by that response, 56 students took over Kennedy's office for a day in May 1989 to dramatize their concerns. Today, Kennedy calls the sit-in "a totally bizarre event, unexpected and disconnected."

While campus activists continued to push affirmative action, a backlash was developing nationally. The counterattack caught fire during Ronald Reagan's second term, when a fierce bureaucratic skirmish erupted in his Cabinet over whether to rescind Johnson's 1965 executive order. The order stayed, but the word was out: Affirmative action was no longer a federal priority.

By the early '90s, opponents were gaining a larger following, fueled by the economic concerns of an anxious white middle class and supported by a federal judiciary appointed in large part by conservative presidents. To many, the argument against affirmative action had appeal: These programs had failed to ease racial tensions and in some cases seemed to have made them worse. Besides, they believed, federal anti-discrimination laws, most of which were passed in the 1960s, provided adequate protection from bias and made affirmative action unnecessary. Even some supporters conceded that affirmative action lost its moral authority when it moved beyond a reparations policy for aggrieved African Americans and became an instrument for broader ethnic and gender diversity.

In the last year or so, the rhetoric has turned nasty, the decibel level high. "This is an emotionally charged issue in part because a lot of people don't know what they're talking about," says Hoover's Bunzel. "People need to know how the affirmative action process works."

So how does it work at Stanford?


The undergraduate admissions office gives "special consideration" to four groups of applicants, "provided they meet basic requirements of academic excellence and personal achievement." The targeted groups are: children of alumni, children of faculty and staff, outstanding athletes and three categories of minorities -- African Americans, Mexican Americans and Native Americans. Women are not designated for special consideration because Stanford has always been co-ed and has no problem attracting large numbers of qualified female applicants; this year women make up 49.7 percent of the freshman class. The "special consideration" clause, which first appeared as a recommendation in the 1968 SES report, was formally approved by the Faculty Senate in 1986.

Critics of affirmative action like to cite this language as proof that the admissions process has strayed from relying on so-called objective factors like high school grade point averages and SAT scores. In fact, the University makes no claim that the admissions process is "objective" and argues quite strenuously that it should not be. "There is no room," Casper said in his speech last year, "for making quantitative, scaleable admissions criteria the sole touchstones of intellectual vitality, talent, character and promise. That has never been the case at Stanford, and I hope it never will be." Admissions officials regard SAT scores as a useful indicator of academic potential, but say the tests are culturally biased and in other ways flawed. Jean Fetter, who was dean of admissions from 1984 to 1991 and is now assistant to the president at Stanford, talks of the futility of trying to compare SAT scores of the "wealthy New Yorker" to those of the "impoverished kid from the Bronx." Says Fetter: "It's not even apples and oranges. It's steak and nuts."

Still, it is undeniable that SAT scores, along with grade point averages, are the best predictors of academic success at Stanford. And it is true that targeted minority students -- like athletes and legacies -- have lower University won't say, other than to reiterate that every student who is admitted is qualified to be here.

No wonder administrators are reticent to talk numbers. In 1991, a Georgetown law student who was working as a file clerk in the admissions office wrote an article asserting that black students at Georgetown scored 14 percent lower on the law school admissions test and had college GPAs that averaged 12.5 percent lower than white admittees. The incident brought a storm of controversy for the law school and the student, who was reprimanded for breach of confidentiality.

Stanford's affirmative action program begins with the aggressive recruiting of minority high school students. In her 1995 book, Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford , Fetter describes how each year during her tenure she personally signed letters to 13,000 black, Mexican-American and Native-American high school students encouraging them to apply to Stanford. Each letter contained a response card and, a few weeks later, was followed by a University-produced newspaper for that ethnic group. The recruitment correspondence was supplemented by high school visits, college-night presentations and special phone calls. Applications from minorities were funneled to the minority directors in the admissions office, though every application had more than one reader. "The purpose of this same-ethnicity reading of the minority files was both to ensure maximum sensitivity in the review and to benefit from the perspectives and expertise of our minority directors," Fetter writes. The final phase of "special consideration" comes with the decision to admit or deny; here, given the subjective nature of admissions, it is difficult to pin down how much of a benefit minorities receive. But there can be no doubt that targeted minorities enjoy some preferences over white applicants.

In practice, these policies have helped to create a fantastically diverse Mexican American and 1.5 percent Native American. Combined with Asian Americans, a minority group that is not specially targeted by the admissions office, the class is 41.3 percent minority. That figure seems too big to some -- especially those whose children, nephews, cousins and family friends have been denied admission. "There are those who do not understand California demographics," says James Montoya, '75, Fetter's successor. Last year, 46.6 percent of high school graduates in California were white; in 1988, the number was 60.2. "That's how quickly the landscape has been changing," Montoya says. Privately, other University administrators note that those alums who complain about race-based preferences rarely object to special treatment for legacies.

Even ardent supporters of affirmative action struggle with the question: Who should benefit? Why Mexican Americans but not Puerto Ricans? Why not Asian Americans? In 1989, C-UAFA created guidelines. To qualify for targeted by both national and state standards" and "the underrepresentation should result from clear historical inequities in this country, rather than from problems of poverty, recent immigration or discrimination in some foreign country." Under these standards, the committee reaffirmed special treatment for blacks, Mexican Americans and Native Americans and rejected requests by campus groups representing Puerto Ricans and Native Hawaiians.

Asian Americans don't realistically expect to be added to the target list. They have long harbored a different concern. Like Jewish students at East Coast schools in the 1920s, some Asian Americans believe they were the victims of quotas designed to keep their presence artificially low. In 1985, a student charged the admissions office with discriminating against Asian American students. A subcommittee of C-UAFA tried to determine why Asian Americans were admitted at rates consistently and significantly lower than the rates for whites. The panel found no evidence of conscious bias and noted that Asian Americans were less likely than whites to enjoy preferences for legacies or varsity athletes. Nonetheless, the number of Asian Americans admitted skyrocketed in the late '80s; they jumped from being 7 percent of the freshman class in 1982 to 24 percent in 1990.


Unlike admissions, where affirmative action is completely voluntary, the University is obligated as a recipient of federal contracts to report annually on its minority hiring program for faculty and staff. But the mere mandate to disclose this information hasn't helped much to improve the numbers. diverse, the University has made much less progress on the faculty. Since 1980, the proportion of black and Hispanic faculty has remained flat. In a 1993 ranking of 21 peer institutions, Stanford placed 19th in the percentage of women on its faculty.

In the last few years, with a push from Casper and Provost Condoleezza Rice, the University has redoubled its efforts to recruit minority and female faculty. In September 1993, about a year after Casper took office, the University Cabinet declared that minority faculty hiring was a "source of urgent concern." A few months later, Rice appointed law Professor Robert Weisberg as vice provost for faculty recruitment and development, effectively re-creating Bienenstock's old position, which had been vacant since 1977. Under Weisberg, the numbers for women and Asian Americans have improved. "Celebration is still premature," says history Professor Estelle Freedman, noting that the faculty remains more than 80 percent male.

Weisberg's mission includes improving morale among junior faculty, particularly women, and addressing the salary gap between senior male and female professors. But his chief function is what he calls "fresh thinking about affirmative action in light of the slowdown" in minority faculty hires. He says the job is harder now than it was under Bienenstock because resources are tighter and "the political and legal picture has grown cloudier."

Like Bienenstock, Weisberg controls a special University account to aid departments trying to hire minority and female professors. But the so-called Faculty Incentive Fund, a version of the Affirmative Action Fund that was used so well in the '70s but languished in the '80s, pays for only half a billet, not a full position. Weisberg says the University will dip into the fund "a few times a year." Weisberg and Rice also have the discretion to block departments from hiring nonminority males if those departments have a bad record on recruiting minorities and women.

Most minority and female professors are pleased with Weisberg's new role. "This is definitely not just cosmetic," Strober says. But some worry he doesn't have enough power. "I don't think the position now is defined the same way" it was in the '70s, says Camarillo. "There was more money behind it then."

Weisberg's challenge is complicated by national trends showing that relatively few minorities seek PhDs. The bulk of minority students who do graduate work are drawn to law or business schools, not academia. As a result, there aren't enough minority candidates in the pipeline when it comes to recruiting top-rank faculty. In 1991, African Americans made up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population but just 3.7 percent of those enrolled in doctoral programs. Likewise, Hispanic Americans made up 8.8 percent of the U.S. population but just 2.9 percent of those in doctoral programs. By comparison, whites comprised 75 percent of the national population and 89.5 percent of those in doctoral programs. Kennedy, who wrestled with this problem while he was president from 1980 to 1992, notes: "The organized minority groups on campus don't like to hear about the pool problem."

Indeed, some dismiss the so-called pipeline argument as a diversion. "Universities that are committed to diversity will find ways to increase minority faculty," says Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, '75, a former BSU and ASSU president who now serves as a Stanford trustee. He cites the Harvard and UCLA faculties as the best examples of minority diversity. "The way you solve the pipeline problem is to meet with incoming minority students and tell them that as important as it is to become doctors and lawyers, it also is important to pursue PhDs."

Two Key Questions

As judges, politicians and voters consider the future of affirmative action in higher education, two key questions emerge: What is the purpose of campus diversity programs, and what sort of impact have they had on the quality of students and faculty at places such as Stanford?

In the early years, affirmative action was simply about fairness. The 1968 SES report refers to "its underlying appeal for the correction of long-suffered injustice." The moral argument has always had potency, at Stanford and elsewhere. By the 1980s, some white males began to question why -- and for how long -- they should pay for the sins of their ancestors. Over time, defenders of campus affirmative action have turned to a second, enriching educational experience. Casper is emphatic on this point. "University admissions offices are not set up to sit in judgment on what injustices society should compensate for and who should pay the price," he said in his speech last year. Stanford, he explained, looks for diversity in order to prepare future leaders and to ensure that students from different backgrounds have the opportunity to learn from each other, "not, to my mind, to address the effects of historic discrimination, although that might be a result."

As a practical matter, this justification has appeal for several reasons. If Congress and the courts continue to dismantle affirmative action in public employment and government contracting, university programs might still survive under the theory that diverse classrooms and dining halls are a component of educating young people. Administrators might argue that academic freedom allows them to act in ways that might not be permitted in the commercial workplace. After all, the Supreme Court, in the Bakke decision, specifically embraced the diversity-for education's-sake rationale, not the social justice argument.

What about quality? Does affirmative action undermine Stanford's commitment to academic excellence? Some professors claim to see an appreciable difference in the performance of white and minority students. French Professor Emeritus Robert Greer Cohn, an outspoken conservative who began teaching at Stanford in 1959, blames what he sees as the "dumbing down" of students on the rise of minority preference programs. "You get diversity at the price of quality," says Cohn, adding that he also believes some deserving professors were not offered tenure in order to accommodate minority and female faculty.

The 1989 UCMI report notes that minority retention and graduation rates are "roughly equivalent" to those of white students. English Professor George Dekker, the former dean of graduate policy, says that more careful screening of graduate applicants has helped to maintain quality. In the '70s, says Dekker, "A lot of people entered PhD programs who really weren't prepared. By the late '70s and early '80s, there was a "tightening of standards that frankly was necessary."

Others say that the costs associated with affirmative action are worth paying. Kennedy acknowledges "one troublesome fact" -- a dearth of targeted minorities at "the very highest level of achievement," such as Phi Beta Kappa and departmental honors. He says this is perhaps because they are more likely to work outside jobs or be involved in community service projects, and in any case "we're talking about the second decimal place and it shouldn't bother us." Some say that it's worth stretching standards to admit minority students to Stanford, but not to hire faculty. "There's a lot of room for taking chances on high school kids. We don't really know who's going to succeed at that stage anyway," says Rosenzweig, who adds, "Sure, there's a cost to preferential admissions, but we ought to pay it." Privately, many University administrators agree, acknowledging there is less latitude for "making mistakes" when it comes to hiring faculty than admitting undergraduates.

His jacket off and his rep tie loosened, Casper has lapsed into his professorial mode as he chats in his office the week before graduation. An expert on constitutional law, he recognizes that affirmative action is so firmly rooted in society -- in business, in government, in public and private universities -- that it will not be dismantled by a single court decision or a few ballot measures. So while the Stanford president wants to help preserve most of these programs, he also worries about what he calls the "balkanization" created by the tumultuous public debate. "I think it is of the greatest importance," he said in his speech, "that all those who participate in the debate refrain from demonizing their opponents." With all the anger and mistrust out there, neither side seems eager to take that advice.

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