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Updated 11:00 AM April 5, 2004



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Courant says fight for diversity not over

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul N. Courant told a Washington audience last week that last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in admissions "did not mark the end of the struggle."
Provost Paul N. Courant accepts an award for diversity from U-M alumnus Antonio Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. (Photo by Mike Waring, U-M Washington Office)

In a speech at the Summit on Diversity hosted by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Courant said challenges to affirmative action continue across the nation.

"The Supreme Court got it right," he said. "They recognized that to create an effective citizenry in a globalized world, it is essential that we have students who are trained and experienced in crossing the ethnic, racial and cultural divides that separate us. The next generation needs to have a cross-cultural agility that does not come naturally to many of us."

Courant said that fully embracing diversity means diversity of ideas, too.

"I'd like us to recognize that active disagreement is a token of respect—much better than passive acquiescence, often feigned, to cries of indifference," he said.

Courant added that leadership at a university is crucial to creating an atmosphere in which this kind of work can be accomplished.

"We need leadership throughout higher education that says, 'This matters—it matters a lot—it is absolutely essential to what we do,'" he said. "One of the great things about the lawsuits at Michigan is that they gave us a platform to say this loud and clear."

Another important benefit of the lawsuits was learning how to make progress on difficult problems, he said.

"Hard work together on things that matter goes a long way to helping us create a world in which differences are comfortably explored," Courant said. "We need to pose tough problems—problems that can't be solved alone—and get people working together on them."

The Summit on Diversity concluded the annual HACU Washington Public Policy conference, which brought together leaders from the more than 300 HACU member institutions.

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