Discussion Questions on Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action"


1. What finding in The Shape of the River is most surprising to you?

2. Is there anything in the results of The Shape of the River study that makes you more sympathetic to preferential admissions?  If so, what and why?  If not, why not?

3.  Preferential admissions implies that African Americans who are admitted will show worse scores in terms of standard indicators such as the SAT (otherwise, of course, there would be no preference).  How large a preference did it require to more than double the percentage of African Americans attending the selective colleges in the sample?   To what extent did the preferences lead to the admission of unqualified students?   How can one judge whether students are unqualified?

4.  A qualification is a property of an applicant that makes the applicant likely to serve the legitimate goals of the institution to which the applicant is applying.   Given this definition of a qualification, Dworkin argues that being African American is an important qualification for admission to selective universities.  How can this be?  What legitimate goals could a student's race possibly serve?  Do you think that Dworkin is right?

5.  What do you think of preferential admissions at UW?  Do you think that your education here would be better if there were more African American students (even if getting them meant lowering or changing admission's requirements) or do you think that the University should eliminate preferential admissions (even if that meant that the number of African Americans on campus would be considerably smaller)?