Reform Movement Opposes Blanket Ban on Affirmative Action in Higher Education
WASHINGTON, May 5-- Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism today wrote to the leadership of the United States House of Representatives confirming the Reform Jewish Movement's commitment to "affirmative action policies which have proven to be significant and successful vehicles for achieving equal opportunity for women and people of color." The letter strongly urged the House to reject the Riggs amendment to the Higher Education Authorization Act. Which would prohibit colleges and universities from using affirmative action in college admissions if they receive federal funds, including Pell Grants.
The full text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews, 1800 Reform Rabbis, and 875 Reform congregations nationwide, I urge you to oppose efforts to eliminate all affirmative action programs in higher education when the Higher Education Authorization Act is considered this week.
As Jews deeply committed to the prophetic imperatives of our tradition, we are dedicated to working for policies that will help realize our dream of justice and equality for all the people of our nation. In accordance with our historic commitment to these ideals, the Reform Jewish Movement supports those affirmative action policies which have proven to be significant and successful vehicles for achieving equal opportunity for women and people of color.
The so-called "Anti-Discrimination in College Admissions Amendment of 1998," sponsored by Representative Frank Riggs (R-CA) will have detrimental effects on national college admissions. California Proposition 209 is a fitting example of the harmful effects of this measure. In the year after the University of California Board of Regents approved a measure similar to that proposed by representative Riggs prohibiting all affirmative action/equal opportunity measures in college admissions, the number of African Americans admitted to UCLA Law School dropped by 80% and at U.C. Berkeley Law School by 81%. With the passage of Proposition 209, Stanford University Law School had the same number of African American students as the University of Mississippi in 1963 -- one.
There is substantial evidence affirmative action programs have made a crucial difference for countless qualified individuals whose talents may not have surfaced without the opportunity provided by such programs. Discrimination and inequities continue to exist, and as a result, women and people of color continue to lag behind by many educational measures. In an era when America's competitive advantage lies in its ability to leverage the diversity of its people, a diverse, educated nation is a stronger nation economically and otherwise.
The promise of equality is not sufficient if there are obstacles that make the reality of equality impossible. Affirmative action efforts ensure that opportunities are available for all who merit them. Therefore, I urge you to oppose the Riggs amendment. Its passage would set back the clock on civil rights, turning a willfully blind eye to inequality.
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.