Does Affirmative Action ensure equality?

“Myths about affirmative action” was the theme of a panel discussion held Thursday in the Smith Memorial Student Union Multicultural Center as part of National Take Affirmative Action Day.

Representatives from the Affirmative Action Office, Oregon Students of Color Coalition (OSCC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Multicultural Affairs at PSU fielded questions from an audience of about 20 people and argued for the continuation of Affirmative Action programs.

“There are a lot of myths out there, a lot of things that people have heard that aren’t correct,” said Burt Christopherson, director of the Affirmative Action Office at PSU.

Christopherson gave an overview of the history of Affirmative Action and spoke about the necessity of obtaining a “critical mass” of students from non-white backgrounds on campus, meaning enough students to make an impact on the student community.

Candace Staples, vice president of the NAACP at PSU, read a statement arguing for the necessity of Affirmative Action.

“Opposers of Affirmative Action cry ‘reverse racism.’ If there even is (such) a thing, I cry back, to be opposed to Affirmative Action is true racism,” she said.

“Affirmative Action is not only effective, it is necessary and it is fair,” Staples added.

Staples also stressed the importance of programs to retain minority students in higher education because “there is so much against students of color before they get to college.”

Kashea Kilson-Anderson, co-chair of the OSCC, also shared his views on Affirmative Action policies.

“Affirmative Action has been around since before the civil rights movement, but the group that benefited was white males,” he said.

When asked why he was opposed to that form of Affirmative Action but not to the current form, Kilson-Anderson responded, “It is important that minorities have opportunities to advance themselves in this country.”

One myth addressed by the panel was the idea that Affirmative Action only benefits minority students. Some policies benefit women and rural students, the panel explained.

“We’re focusing on students of color, but there are more students that benefit from Affirmative Action,” Aaleeya Spence, director of multicultural affairs for ASPSU, said.

Affirmative Action causing feelings of intimidation in white students was also discussed.

“If Affirmative Action is practiced as a destructive race-promoting system, the majority won’t support it,” Christopherson said, explaining that he believes that people disagree with some of the methodologies of Affirmative Action but do not oppose the ideas behind it.

Similar forums were also held by the OSCC at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University as part of National Take Affirmative Action Day, an event created as “a national day of solidarity for student fighting for social justice in higher education,” according to Brian Neal, the NAACP’s youth and college director in an NAACP press release.