This volume explores American attitudes toward affirmative action policies through an extensive study of a national sample of university faculty. By examining views about affirmative action in academia within a framework that outlines the larger issues involved in using affirmative action to promote equality of opportunity for historical victims of discrimination, Stephanie Witt offers new insights into the competing values in American society which the policy of affirmative action serves to bring into conflict. She finds important differences in the perceptions of white males as opposed to those of protected categorical groups in regard to affirmative action, findings which suggest that further progress toward gender and racial equality via affirmative action may be slow in coming. The analysis also includes an extended treatment of the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action.
Witt begins by providing a general overview of the policy of affirmative action as expressed in the official statements and policy clarifications supplied by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She then examines the historical progress--or lack thereof--made in increasing the numbers of women and minority faculty in American universities in recent decades. Two chapters explore the conflict between competing values of individualism and egalitarianism which are thrown into sharp relief by affirmative action policies. The remaining chapters are devoted to an in-depth analysis of the empirical data derived from the study. Witt's results indicate that the objective self-interest of the respondent--whether he or she is a white male or a member of a protected minority--is the most predictive factor of his or her views toward affirmative action policies. Policymakers as well as scholars in women's studies and ethnic studies will find Witt's work a sobering assessment of the progress that can be expected from affirmative action programs.