Debaters clash on PC issue

By Eric Krol

Affirmative action programs and college entrance tests were among the main topics of a vigorously-contested debate Wednesday night.

Dinesh D’Souza, author of Illiberal Education, a book which attacks politically correct values, and Stanley Fish, Duke University English department chairman, engaged in a debate entitled “The Politics of Race and Gender on Campus” in front of a nearly full Carl Sandburg auditorium at the Holmes Student Center.

D’Souza, a former chief domestic adviser in the Reagan administration, started the discussion by saying current campus thought trends are eroding equal opportunity, integration and high academic standards.

Affirmative action only serves to increase racial tension on campuses, D’Souza said. This is operating contrary to the goal of such programs, which is an integrated society, he added.

D’Souza also said changing standardized tests such as the SAT to meet minority backgrounds is not the road to equality because it only serves to lower academic standards for all.

D’Souza said special admissions programs only serve to place “quotation marks around the accomplishments of minorities.”

During his rebuttal, Fish quoted sources which stated students with high-income levels tend to do better on SAT tests and often they can afford expensive test preparation classes.

D’Souza also said terms such as racism and homophobia are devalued from overuse.

“When you cry wolf all the time, it becomes hard when the real wolf shows up,” he said.

Fish said affirmative action programs are viable because opponents of the programs tend to “twist history.”

The initial fairness of a level-playing field was never there, Fish said. “It assumes fairness has a content that survives across years,” he said.

Fish also defended affirmative action hiring procedures. He said although the common argument against such practices is “Why me? I didn’t own slaves,” the resulting “discrimination” is only a by-product of the programs, not the original intent.

Contrary to much of the pre-debate hype, the topic of politically correct speech was not a major focus.

D’Souza said PC advocates use their opinion to harass those with “incorrect” views while Fish maintained minorities still need help to overcome prejudice.

Micheal Roberts, Campus Activities Board speakers coordinator, said D’Souza and Fish will split a $6,000 honorarium.