Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action is the practice of favoring individuals of groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination in the past or present. It has been a contested and debated topic since its inception and is still questioned to some extent today. Many individuals may deem at as unfair towards specific groups such as white people, but other maintain that it is necessary and results in positive change. In a chapter titled "In Defence of Affirmative Action" from the book Affirmative Action and the University: A Philosophical Inquiry, Leslie Pickering Francis made the observation that "Affirmative Action has been partly successful in correcting bias, but in many areas the need for corrective strategies continues," meaning that there are still avenues for improvement in the way of diversity.

Hard Times

Prior to the 1990s, the University of Scranton had an extremely difficult time recruiting minority students. It was a time where there was not a large black population in Scranton, and the city was in a rather poor situation financially. The Scranton area was going through a tumultuous time economically as well as socially. In the 1950s and 1960s, one of the pillars of Scranton's economy, coal mining, took a serious downturn due to the local coal mines exhausting almost all of their resources. There was little to no coal left in the mines, which in turn affected other industries such as steel, iron, and paper. This economic downturn lasted for quite a while and the population of the city decreased dramtically. The University of Scranton in turn could not devote much of its resources towards the idea of diversity, even if they believed in the idea itself. 

While remaining on a tight budget, the University of Scranton also decided to expand at an inopportune time, again leaving little room for a focus on diversity in student enrollment. In the early Affirmative Action plans, most of the focus is entirely on the economic side of the university as well as staff and faculty. Very little attention is paid to student enrollment concerns, but again, the idea of diversity remained prevalent.

The Aquinas: "Freshmen Quality Cited Black Recruiting Grows"

Father Bernard McIlhenny interview with The Aquinas

Initial Efforts

The University of Scranton's Father Bernard McIlhenny in 1969 gave an interview with The Aquinas in which he explains the value of diversity at the University of Scranton. This interview showcases the fact that at least some individuals in the the university did truly value diversity and attempted to creat avenues for them to join; however, Father McIlhenny also outlines reasons which made the process difficult. 

"First of all, black students are not attracted to the area. Of a community of 110,000 there are only 600 blacks. The vast majority of the ones I've spoken to want more black people around. Most go to large city schools." 

The reason that Father McIlhenny gives is valid for the time period. There were truly not many black people in the Scranton area and this remained a trend for many years after this interview as well. The black community barely existed in Scranton which made other black people hesitant to live in the area. They may have been skeptical of a massive white population due to the time period, or they may have just been more uncomfortable without people around them who understood their experiences. Either way, black students were hesitant to join.