Sandra Day O’Connor Revisits and Revives Affirmative Action Controversy in New Release “The Next 25 Years”

by kris bishop on January 26, 2010

(Excerpt from original article by Peter Schmidt, published in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, JAN 14, 2010 / PHOTO CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, GETTY IMAGES)

Photo_3153_oconnor “In an essay written with Stewart J. Schwab, who had served as one of her Supreme Court clerks and is now dean of the Cornell Law School, Justice O’Connor argues that the majority opinion she wrote in the 2003 affirmative-action case should not be seen as imposing a deadline on the use of race-conscious policies or as relieving the need for more research showing such policies have educational benefits.

‘When the time comes to reassess the constitutionality of considering race in higher-education admissions,’ the essay says, ‘we will need social scientists to clearly demonstrate the educational benefits of diverse student bodies, and to better understand the links between role models in one generation and aspirations and achievements of succeeding

Featherman_cover The essay, contained in the new book The Next 25 Years: Affirmative Action in Higher Education in the United States and South Africa, has struck a raw nerve among critics of affirmative action who were frustrated by the pivotal role Justice O’Connor played in preserving race-conscious admissions policies in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, involving the University of Michigan Law School. Seen as the court’s swing vote on the affirmative-action issue, she ended up siding with its liberal wing in a 5-to-4 ruling holding that race-conscious admissions policies are constitutional because they serve the compelling state interest of promoting diversity and its associated educational benefits.”


The Next Twenty-Five Years: Affirmative Action in the United States and South Africa

Editors: David L. Featherman, Martin Hall, and Marvin Krislov

Foreword: Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of
Michigan / Foreword: Njabulo Ndebele, Former Vice-Chancellor and
Principal of the University of Cape Town

Cloth: 978-0-472-11705-5 / Paper: 978-0-472-03377-5



“Ambitious, provocative, and wide-ranging, this rich collection of essays from U.S. and South African perspectives reflects the thinking of thoughtful advocates of affirmative action.”
—William G. Bowen, President Emeritus, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and President Emeritus, Princeton University

“Thoughtful commentary from outstanding experts on affirmative action’s future in two countries struggling to overcome a legacy of racial injustice.”
—Derek Bok, 300th Anniversary University Research Professor, and President Emeritus, Harvard University

“An enormously important comparative study and reflection on affirmative (U.S.) and corrective (South Africa) action with exhaustive and sensitive treatment of a vital topic.”
—Kader Asmal, Professor of Law, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, and former Minister of Education, South Africa

David L. Featherman is Professor of Sociology and Psychology and Founding Director of the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society at the University of Michigan.

Martin Hall is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, Greater Manchester, and previously was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town.

Marvin Krislov is President of Oberlin College and previously was Vice President and General Counsel at the University of Michigan.

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