David Oppenheimer, Professor

Closed (1) The transformation of affirmative action in the United States, from remedy to diversity management.

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2017 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2018.

Affirmative action and diversity policies began in the United States as a remedy for racial discrimination against Black Americans in the 60's -- the 1860's. They were controversial from the beginning, but were seen as an important tool for addressing racial (and later gender and ethnic) inequality. Although often dormant, in the 1950s and 60s they became an important part of the Civil Rights Movement. But by the mid-1970’s affirmative action policies were under assault, in the courts and in political debate. Employment quotas were permitted under limited circumstances, but quotas in higher education were fiercely contested. The turning point for affirmative action in education came in 1978, in the Bakke case.

Although the Bakke decision was limited to college and university admissions, it has spread to every aspect of American life. Diversity is now used to justify decision-making about hiring and promotion, contracting, housing policy, military advancement, advertising and marketing, and other areas of modern life, in addition to admission to schools, colleges and universities. But what kind of diversity counts? In 1978, the concern was with racial diversity at largely white institutions. But today, any kind of difference that is countable is counted, and celebrated. And what has the celebration of diversity meant for Black Americans?

This project will produce a series of papers chronicling the transformation of affirmative action in private employment, from a remedy for racial discrimination to a management tool to promote diversity. We will attempt to measure the impact of the new affirmative action on Black Americans, the original intended beneficiaries.


Students will participate in archival research, finding court reports, oral histories and news accounts of early affirmative action projects, research in business and legal journals on the current scope of diversity management, and empirical research on the economic and social status of Black Americans. They will learn a variety of research skills in the increasingly multidisciplinary field of contemporary legal scholarship. Because I have a heavy teaching load this fall, I will bring on only 1 or 2 students this fall.

Qualifications: Students should be upper division, and have some experience in archival or empirical research. I'd prefer students who could begin this fall and continue working on the project in the spring 2018 semester.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/faculty/facultyProfile.php?facID=135