University of Pittsburgh
March 2, 2003

Black Student and Alumni Groups 'Hail Pitt' Black Action Society and African American Alumni Council Commend University for Filing Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of Michigan in Supreme Court Case

Contact:  412-624-4147

Contact: Maureen Cross Bolden (AAAC) [412/395-6065]

Raheem Dawson (BAS) [412-370-2399]

March 3, 2003

PITTSBURGH—The African American Alumni Council (AAAC) and Black Action Society (BAS) of the University of Pittsburgh announced today their commendation of the University's position on affirmative action in higher education, as detailed in the amicus curiae brief filed Feb. 19 by Pitt and three other universities in support of the University of Michigan. Struck by the University's dedication to equal opportunity and diversity, the two groups came together to express their solidarity with the University on the issue.

In making their announcement, the groups noted the importance of the University of Michigan affirmative action admissions cases that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this spring. They said that losing court approval to take race into account, as part of a holistic approach to college admissions, would result in decreased opportunity to higher education for African Americans. Pointing out the continuing economic and educational quality disparities between Whites and African Americans, the groups emphasized the role that education has historically played in improving African American quality of life.

In applauding Pitt's initiative in support of Michigan, AAAC and BAS also criticized the embrace of the "percentage plan" approach to dealing with diversity in college admissions recommended to the court by some other amici. The plans involve guaranteeing admission to state institutions for students who graduate at the top of their classes from their respective states' high schools. The two groups agree with Pitt that these plans rely on segregation to accomplish their goal. They observed that nearly 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision and nearly 25 years after the Bakke decision, "percentage plans" are an unacceptable, if unstated, race-conscious "fix" that feigns race-neutrality, while pinning their hopes on a future of de facto school segregation now and forever.

Maureen Cross Bolden, President of the AAAC, said in making the announcement, "We applaud Pitt for taking a strong stand in favor of a diverse University culture. We expect that Pitt will continue to move forward to improve diversity in all aspects of campus life."

"We're pleased to see the University on the frontlines of an issue that is so important to students of color," said Raheem Dawson, Political Action Chair of BAS. "And we look forward to seeing bold positions on other issues that affect minority students, as well as students in general." Dawson went on to cite recent tuition hikes and "the systematic dissolution of many Black Studies departments" as examples of the national problems he hopes that the University will address and work to resolve.

The AAAC, a division of the Pitt Alumni Association, is the official representative body of more than 7,000 African American Pitt alumni and friends worldwide. The AAAC encourages cultural diversity at the University by engaging in activities and programs that promote the recruitment and retention of African American students, faculty, and administrators. The AAAC also provides student scholarships, encourages alumni to make financial contributions to the University, and works to improve the communication and quality of life for all African American students and alumni at Pitt.

BAS is the official representative organization for Black students at Pitt. Dedicated to meeting the concerns and interests of Black students, as well as to creating a positive environment for their development at the University, BAS provides programs and a voice that serve their educational, cultural, political, and social needs. BAS also maintains a working relationship with the general community. Additionally, BAS is the umbrella organization for the host of Black student organizations at Pitt—including, among others, African Student Organization, Caribbean and Latin American Students Association, National Society for Black Engineers, Pre-Medical Organization for Minority Students, Ambassadors for Christ, and Black Dance Workshop.

# # #