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Affirmative action is defined as specific actions taken to eliminate the present effects of past discrimination or to prevent discrimination. As such, affirmative action plans have historically allowed policies to consider gender, race, ethnicity, or disability. Generally, affirmative action refers to hiring practices as well as to higher education recruitment and admissions practices. Typically, affirmative action policies involve granting some sort of preference in hiring or admissions to members of a minority group based on sex or race. This entry focuses on affirmative action relating to students in higher education.

Affirmative action in higher education has been extremely controversial. Critics believe that affirmative action is, in effect, reverse discrimination—so that by giving admissions preferences to members of the minority group, universities are discriminating against Caucasians. Other ...

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