ERIC Number: EJ999733
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Apr
Reference Count: 25
Critical Mass Revisited: Learning Lessons from Research on Diversity in STEM Fields
Malcom, Shirley M.; Malcom-Piqueux, Lindsey E.
Educational Researcher, v42 n3 p176-178 Apr 2013
Numerous legal scholars and social scientists have highlighted the ways in which research has informed judicial decision making. Because, in part, of convincing empirical research presented in several landmark cases (e.g., "Grutter v. Bollinger," 2003; "Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1," 2007), the consideration of race in educational policies has been deemed permissible, albeit in limited, narrowly tailored ways. "Grutter" also represented an affirmation of the importance of research for social scientists whose work provided empirical evidence of the educational benefits of diversity and the importance of a "critical mass" of underrepresented students, which served as a basis for the Court's decision. Although the Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School's admissions policy in "Grutter," the opinion of the Court also stated the expectation that race would no longer need to be considered in a generation's time. However, as evidenced by the oral arguments of "Fisher v. University of Texas," which came just 9 years after "Grutter," time may be running short for race-conscious admissions. In the "Fisher" oral arguments, the questions did not necessarily focus on diversity--defined as a "critical mass" of underrepresented students--as a compelling interest. Instead, many of the concerns (most often voiced by the Court's more conservative Justices) centered around two questions: (a) Can a critical mass of racial/ethnic minority members be achieved without considering race?; and (b) How will one know that a critical mass has been achieved and, thus, that the endpoint for the consideration of race has been reached? Both of these questions concern the narrow tailoring of holistic admissions policies in which race is considered as a factor. As scholar-advocates whose previous work has focused on broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and related fields, the authors argue that social scientists ought to look to the vast STEM education research literature to begin the task of empirically investigating the questions raised in the "Fisher" case. In this analysis, the authors provide their answers to the two questions above, based on research and evaluation of current programs and institutional efforts aimed at broadening participation in STEM.
Descriptors: Affirmative Action, Race, Social Scientists, STEM Education, Law Schools, Research, Scholarship, Disproportionate Representation, Student Diversity, Court Litigation, Minority Groups, Minority Group Students, Educational Policy, Cultural Differences, Higher Education, College Admission, Admission Criteria
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Michigan; Texas; United States
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Bakke v Regents of University of California; Grutter et al v Bollinger et al