Meanings: “UF250” and “Affirmative Action”

October 11, 2012

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether colleges and universities could continue to use race as a factor in admissions decisions: that is, whether they could continue with affirmative action admissions policies.  With all that has been said over the past four decades, it is difficult to know what more can be said about affirmative action.  But this morning I’m thinking the key is to understand UF250.

UF250 is a word that is not in the OED nor in any other dictionary, but worth learning.  A UF250 is the form New York City Police officers file after a “stop and frisk” encounter on the street.  NYPD officers file 1800 of these a day:As you might imagine — should imagine — most of those stopped in this way are young men, African-American and Hispanic.  The vast majority of them have done nothing wrong.  Read the options under “What were the circumstances that led to the stop?” They give officers a good deal of discretion, don’t they?  The exercise of that discretion often involves humiliation and physical force.

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent post about the “stop and frisk” policy, the way it violates the civil rights of most of those accosted.  Be sure to watch the video he provides that contains two noteworthy items.  One is an audio clip of a young man being stopped and frisked.  The other is an account of how police officers are pressed to use “stop and frisk” and to fill out high numbers of UF250s.  “Quotas” — a hateful word in discussions of affirmative action — are mentioned.

There are those who believe we cannot and should not take any account of race in college admissions despite the centuries of slavery and discrimination.  But at the same time we tolerate, even encourage, the use of race in how we police American cities.

I hope the Supreme Court Justices weigh the meaning of “UF250” as they consider their opinions in the current affirmative action case.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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One Response to Meanings: “UF250” and “Affirmative Action”

  1. Doug Bennett says:

    From Tommy Bennett, in Brooklyn: Nicely put. But of course the Supreme Court left this train at the station in 1976: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_v._Davis

    Mere discriminatory impact, without discriminatory intent proven, does not make out a claim under the 14th Amendment. Because everyone agrees that UT intends to use race as a factor, strict scrutiny is triggered.

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