The Driving Force - Higher Education

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The Driving Force

by Black Issues

The Driving Force

Just as we were preparing to send this edition to the printer, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced that his new “One Florida” plan would end affirmative action in that state. In its place, he’s recommending a package of initiatives that he and his staff contend would improve “resources and opportunities in underperforming [primary and secondary] schools…”
It is bittersweet news, but at least Bush’s strategy for killing affirmative action  includes a strategy for helping academically disadvantaged students.
Then, it was announced that Ward Connerly and his henchmen would continue their campaign to get a referendum on the ballot eliminating affirmative action because the Bush proposal didn’t go far enough (see  pg. 16).
Many of my friends simply call these folks evil, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that in my most frustrated moments, I’m tempted to believe this as well. But in my more sanguine moments I tell myself  that these folks simply don’t know any better. They’ve somehow convinced themselves that affirmative action is misguided and that it does more harm than good to our society. They also believe that  we can somehow eliminate the inequities surrounding race by ignoring race.
How any fair-minded person could possibly conclude this is remarkable to me, especially amid such an abundance of evidence to the contrary. But then, this is a perfect example of why more education is needed about how race plays out in our competitive society.
So, as we present you with this year’s special report on Careers in Higher Education, we feel compelled to remind our readers that no underrepresented member of a faculty, staff or student group should allow himself or herself to be lulled into believing that their positions in higher education are safe. It doesn’t matter if you have tenure, or if the field you’re in has nothing to do with diversity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a field where your skills are in high demand. It doesn’t even matter whether you believe that affirmative action is wrong or right. The truth is that every corner of the academy is vulnerable. And, as the Florida situation demonstrates, no concessions or attempts to negotiate a compromise will be considered. War has been declared on diversity in higher education, and the aggressors will not rest until they reach their goal — unless a counter-offensive stops them in their tracks. 
In Michele N-K Collison’s story about achieving career satisfaction, three veteran scholars who have already eked out distinguished careers for themselves share their thoughts about what it takes to achieve career satisfaction as a member of the academy, even in the midst of hostility.
The ability to pursue research is another staple in the most rewarding of scholarly careers, and correspondent Linda Meggett Brown’s story explores how a growing number of institutions are working to expand their research capabilities (see pg.34).
Then, in an exclusive interview, education expert Dr. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, shares her insights on more effective ways of teaching children of color (see pg. 31).
Finally, this special report also marks the first anniversary of our “Career Consultants” column, edited by Joan Morgan. Thanks to our readers who’ve willingly contributed to this column either in the way of questions or answers. Your support, and the support of your colleagues who’ve either written or called to tell us how much they appreciate it, inspire us to continue providing this helpful forum of career advice. As we move into the second year, we invite more of you to correspond with Joan so that we can expand the network.

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