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Her ‘Simple Statement’ Draws Affirmative Response Planned Coast-To-Coast College Rally For Affirmative Action Grew From New York Law Student’s Idea

Sat., March 28, 1998

It all started as “a simple statement to support diversity” in the mind of New York University Law School student Sabrina Comizzoli.

But six weeks later, that idea has mushroomed into scheduled rallies at more than 50 college campuses in 21 states to support affirmative action on April 1.

“Its been just amazing,” Comizzoli said. “I never did anything like this before. I just decided I needed to do something political, and it looks like it will be great.”

The rally at New York University will kick off the nationwide event to support affirmative action provisions. Other schools scheduled to hold events include Rutgers University, the University of Georgia, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and Columbia University, Comizzoli said.

While recent polls of student attitudes show rising apathy for political causes, Comizzoli said she believes a cause can indeed spark student action if it affects them directly.

“We go to college to learn, and you will learn more in a diverse setting,” she said.

Some educators fear reports of reduced minority admissions are a result of actions of a federal court in Texas and the voters of California under Proposition 209 to end educational preferences for minorities.

Minorities are discouraged from applying, and administrators have become overly cautious about admissions policies, they contend.

According to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, 17 percent fewer minority students applied to their state medical schools in California and in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana - states covered by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that affirmative action is unconstitutional. The number accepted in the four states dropped by 27 percent.

In late February, Comizzoli held a meeting with students from four New York area colleges. The result was the planned rally, which was scheduled for April 1 “because we wanted the kids to be back from spring break but we didn’t want them as stressed over finals.” The students took to the Internet to contact schools outside the New York area and found a receptive audience.

“Students in California felt they were the most threatened by all this, but then it just grew,” Comizzoli said.

Michigan is the latest battleground where a group of students are suing the state to end affirmative action provisions in class admittance.

Todd Klepper, a University of Michigan junior who is a coordinator of the pro-affirmative action rally there, said a major reason he went to the school was the diverse campus makeup. Klepper said anything that threatens that composition is something to fight.

“If they roll back affirmative action here and the results are anything like what’s happening in California, I’ll want out,” said Klepper, 21.

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