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Statement on Diversity by the Board of Directors of the Association of American Universities


Following is a statement by the Board of Directors of the Association of American Universities, the association of leading public and private research universities. The statement reaffirms the importance of student diversity at research universities and points to research showing successful outcomes for underrepresented minority students who benefit from admissions policies designed to create diverse student bodies.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) has long asserted the importance of diversity to the missions of research universities. Today, on behalf of AAU’s member universities, the Board of Directors reaffirms the association’s commitment to achieving a diverse student body through a comprehensive process using race as one of many factors in making individual admissions decisions.

A diverse student body adds significantly to the rigor and depth of students’ educational experience. Diversity encourages students to question their own assumptions, to test received truths, and to appreciate the complexity of the modern world. As this association stated in 1997, “In the course of their university education, our students encounter and learn from others who have backgrounds and characteristics very different from their own. As we seek to prepare students for life in the twenty-first century, the educational value of such encounters will become more important, not less, than in the past.”

AAU universities and other selective institutions only admit students who meet our rigorous admissions criteria. Past studies make clear that underrepresented minority students graduate from selective institutions at a higher rate than do similarly qualified peers who attend less demanding schools. And available evidence demonstrates that the great majority of beneficiaries of these policies and practices go on to enjoy successful careers.

Our institutions have a responsibility to lead the way in retaining and preparing all students. Ensuring that students succeed is a particular challenge in the STEM disciplines. AAU has undertaken a major STEM undergraduate teaching initiative with the goal of encouraging faculty members and departments to switch from the traditional lecture method of teaching to research-tested active-learning techniques and student-centered teaching. Studies show that all students – especially those traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including minorities and women – learn more effectively in these environments, and are achieving at even higher levels than they were before the shift in pedagogy.

We are committed to diversity. It is fundamental to the very concept of education. The question is not whether or not a diverse student body is important – the consensus among higher education, military, and business leaders has long been that it is – but rather how universities can enable all of their students to flourish in their studies, in their careers, and as thoughtful citizens and visionary leaders.

Lou Anna K. Simon
President, Michigan State University – AAU Chair

David W. Leebron
President, Rice University – AAU Vice Chair

Amy Gutmann
President, University of Pennsylvania – AAU Past Chair

Michael V. Drake
President, The Ohio State University

John L. Hennessy
President, Stanford University

G. P. "Bud" Peterson
President, Georgia Institute of Technology

L. Rafael Reif,
President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Barbara R. Snyder
President, Case Western Reserve University

Teresa A. Sullivan
President, University of Virginia

Satish K. Tripathi
President, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Hunter R. Rawlings III
President, Association of American Universities – ex-officio

December 18, 2015