- Special Reports
A law school dean, an education school professor, and a longtime university president who have collectively advanced diversity in higher education will be honored by Diverse on Monday at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education.
The three academics—Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley Jr., co-founders of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard, now housed at UCLA, and Dr. Robert A. Corrigan, longtime president at San Francisco State University—all have been selected to receive Diverse magazine’s Dr. John Hope Franklin Award. The award is bestowed annually to recognize individuals and organizations for excellence in higher education.
This year’s awardees embody the principles of the award’s namesake, said Maya Matthews Minter, Vice President of Editorial and Production at Diverse.
“The awardees, just as Dr. Franklin demonstrated during his lifetime, represent the very essence of excellence and integrity in academic leadership and service,” Minter said.
As Harvard professors in 1996, in the wake of Hopwood v. Texas, an appellate court case that ruled that race could not be used as a factor in college admissions, both Orfield and Edley co-founded the Civil Rights Project at Harvard.
“Their vision was to have a research think tank that provided research to policy makers focused on race and ethnicity,” said Edley’s wife, Maria Echaveste, a lecturer at UC Berkeley.
She said the Civil Rights Project, known as CRP, was “hugely important” to the whole debate about the importance of affirmative action in higher education.
Just how important CRP proved to be in that debate is captured in an article that appeared in the September-October 2003 edition of Harvard Magazine.
“When it came time to argue affirmative action in front of the Supreme Court this spring, researchers knew exactly where to go for information on the impact of racial diversity in higher education,” the article states. “Numerous amicus curiae briefs cited CRP’s research, and its work was discussed in oral arguments in April. The justices obviously listened: they, in turn, mentioned CRP research in their landmark decisions in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
“The Civil Rights Project had come full circle,” the article continues, “succeeding by proving the hypothesis on which it was founded: that affirmative action mattered. Hopwood had been overturned.”
Orfield moved the the Civil Rights Project from Harvard to UCLA in 2007 and renamed it the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. Edley, who also left Harvard, went to UC Berkeley, where he became dean of the law school and founded the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Law and Social Policy.
Those familiar with the two scholars’ careers say their work has played an invaluable role in illuminating issues of socioeconomic inequity in American education.
Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, called Orfield “the nation’s most powerful voice today on school desegregation.”
“At a time when 95 percent of education reform is about trying to make ‘separate but equal’ work, Gary has produced a wide body of very convincing scholarship to suggest that the mainstream is wrong and that we need to redouble our efforts to promote economically and racially integrated schools, in primary, secondary and higher education,” Kahlenberg said.
Edley’s wife, Echaveste, who recently became policy and program development director at the law institute founded by her husband at UC Berkeley, said Edley helped shape important elements of the landmark education law No Child Left Behind, such as disaggregation of data by race and ethnicity to track how minority students are faring in America’s schools.
Without such data, Echaveste said, school districts could mask any problems they have had in educating minority students by burying minority students’ assessments among those of the overall student population.
“It may not seem like a lot, policy-tinkering is not for the weak-hearted and may be incredibly boring for some folks, but, at the end of the day, when you’re making judgments about where to put money or how to enforce laws, research gives you ammunition in order to counter the naysayers and those folks who say, ‘Everything is fine, hunky dory, we got rid of Jim Crow, everybody’s equal,’” Echaveste said. “When you look at the data, we see we’re not equal.”
Awardee Dr. Robert Corrigan, who since 1988 has served as the 12th president of San Francisco State University, is being honored for his many achievements as a university administrator, including giving civic engagement and the application of university expertise to community issues a higher profile on campus.
Dr. Corrigan also will be recognized for his pioneering work in African-American studies during his time as a faculty member at the University of Iowa.
“Rejecting the view that higher education should serve only a predominantly elite population, he stepped beyond the boundaries to found one of the nation’s first Black Studies programs in Iowa—a state that, at that time, had about a 2 percent diversity quotient,” Dr. James M. Rosser, president of Cal State University, Los Angeles, said in a speech his office provided to Diverse.
“This stands as one of the many bold actions that made Bob Corrigan stand out as a champion of diversity for many decades,” Rosser said.
This year’s Dr. John Hope Franklin award will be presented at a reception from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 12, 2012, during the 94th annual meeting of the American Council on Education, or ACE, in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Dr. John Hope Franklin Award was created by Diverse in 2004 to pay tribute to the late Dr. Franklin, a historian, writer, educator and humanitarian who made significant contributions to shaping the perspective of American history in the 20th century.