* As five of the UCLA faculty members who taught in an innovative undergraduate course on the history and politics of affirmative action, we were disturbed by comments made by University of California's Regent Ward Connerly criticizing the course (July 6).
"The History and Politics of Affirmative Action" brought depth, thoughtful analysis and reasoned debate to a significant and timely social issue on which there are fundamental differences. The course addressed the historical and legal roots of affirmative action, as well as economic, social and educational issues. Students read and thought critically about the issues, and engaged in open, analytical and lively debates grounded in research data and scholarship.
The course fits in very well with the UCLA tradition of addressing critical issues facing society in an open and serious manner. In addition to offering a comprehensive selection of traditional courses, UCLA has for many years offered timely undergraduate courses on such topics as the Middle East peace process (as the peace process was actually unfolding), Los Angeles in transition, AIDS, violence against women, political and social reform in post-Communist Eastern Europe and the implications of the human genome project, to name just a few. We firmly believe that these courses belong in a university curriculum.
Eighty-three students enrolled in the course, and their written evaluations show that the course succeeded in enhancing their knowledge and stimulating their thinking. "We were able to actually hear different theories and decide whether the arguments fit with out own personal values," one student wrote.
Assigned readings included many articles by scholars representing a wide spectrum of viewpoints, relevant court cases, a speech by Lyndon Johnson, data on freshman admissions at UCLA, and articles from the media.
The students worked hard, and substantially increased their knowledge about the issues. We do not know whether anybody's opinion was changed as a result of the course, and we don't particularly care. It is our responsibility to give students the tools that enable them to think through issues carefully and thoughtfully, and to make up their own minds.
LAWRENCE BOBO, Prof. of Sociology
ELLEN DuBOIS, Prof. of History
JULIAN EULE, Prof. of Law
RUTH MILKMAN, Prof. of Sociology
JAMES SIDANIUS, Prof. of Psychology