Expanded Opportunities: Protected Groups

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Until fairly recently, the vast majority of U.S. college and university students were white men. At key points in the last 150 years, enrollment changed to include more women and people of color. However, even with greater overall participation in higher education, women and African-Americans had limited opportunities until the 1950s and 1960s. Members of other racial and ethnic groups also have experienced quotas or other limits on their full participation in higher education. In many cases, being married, being a parent, or having a particular political affiliation was cause for discrimination. 


As the result of several landmark events, many groups became "protected classes" and have been provided with greater opportunities through the force of law. Many states have passed additional laws, and individual colleges and universities have enacted policies prohibiting discrimination in other areas, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and even genetic information.

As defined by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (n.d.), protected classes in federal law are:

The groups protected from the [sic] employment discrimination by law. These groups include men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental [disabilities]. Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] law. However, the EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members.

Complete the following for this Question:

  • Choose a federally protected class or another group that has experienced discrimination in higher education to write about for your initial post, and find at least two scholarly articles related to that group's evolving access to opportunity. Begin your search by accessing the Higher Education in the United States Library Guide (linked in Resources).
  • Based on your reading in this unit and in the articles that you find, identify the most important landmark events that provided opportunities for this group, such as the passage of federal law, a court decision, or a destiny-changing occurrence within a political or social movement. 

  • Describe the event or events you believe had the greatest bearing on enabling this group to access higher education in the United States. Analyze the nature of the event involved and address the following:
    • Which of these events would you say primarily resulted from social changes? Why?
    • Which events would you say were primarily economically oriented? Why?
    • Which events would you describe as politically based? Why?


Reference

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). Equal employment opportunity (EEO) terminology. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/eeo/terminology.html#p


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