UNC hosts panel on affirmative action ruling's effect on college sports

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Friday, July 21, 2023
UNC panel talks affirmative action ruling's effect on college sports
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Some people expressed concern about the future at public universities while others saw the high court's decision as an opportunity for historically black colleges.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Last month's Supreme Court ruling striking down race-based college admissions triggered a new debate on the effect the decision might have on college athletics. UNC-Chapel Hill, where basketball is a near religion, hosted a national panel on the issue this week.

UNC professor and racial equity expert Deborah Stroman led the high-stakes discussion. A big question: Will minority athletes become the new majority of students of color on college campuses following the high court's decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions?

Stroman pointed to the effect in California in the late 1990s when the state banned affirmative action.

"At the University of California, UCLA, 70% of the Black men on campus are Black athletes. That's very disturbing," Stroman said.

UNC law professor Erika Wilson expressed concern that it could send the message that the role of Black students on campus is of a laborer not a student.

"I've heard from student-athletes now, even with race-conscious admissions, who feel like students come up to them on campus and assume that their only purpose is to entertain," Wilson told the panel.

University of Central Florida researcher Richard Lapchick talked about what he believes is lack of urgency in changing the diversity calculus in college admissions.

"I think there's resistance to people who look like me to give up power," Lapchick said. "We need something dramatic. And I don't know what it is at the college level to induce people to do the right thing. And to know that just doing the right thing isn't an ethical decision. It's a good business decision."

But some saw the high court's decision as an opportunity for historically black colleges.

"The one side of it is (HBCUs) have a great product academically. The other side of it is that our athletics have been sort of maligned as being a less than," said Virginia State University Education Department chair Michael McIntosh. "I think historically Black colleges and universities are going to meet the challenge because we have to."

This discussion comes after UNC announced its own response to the affirmative action ruling: free tuition for North Carolina students whose families make less than $80,000.

Stroman believes that won't be enough to ensure equity and diversity, saying there's a big difference between socioeconomic status and race.