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Beckman Is Editor of New National Reference on Affirmative Action

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By Karen Guin

For the most up-to-date, comprehensive information on affirmative action, look no further than a new book edited by James Beckman, chair of UCF's Department of Legal Studies.

Beckman is the editor of Controversies in Affirmative Action, a three-volume set released last week by Praeger. The book contains essays by 36 scholars from across the United States. They offer diverse perspectives on the role of affirmative action in society and its continued viability in the 21st century.

"Formal practices of affirmative action really took hold in the early 1960s through the actions of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to address rampant social and economic inequalities," Beckman said. Since then its implementation, legality and constitutionality have been debated in many forums, including scholarly manuscripts and books.

In 2003, the Supreme Court decided two landmark cases involving affirmative action practices at the University of Michigan. The following year, Beckman edited a two-volume cross-disciplinary encyclopedia set on affirmative action, published by Greenwood Press.

"At the time, this set was considered by some to be the definitive cross-disciplinary reference on the topic," Beckman shared. "The U.S. Supreme Court even ordered a copy of the set for its law library."     

Since 2004, the Supreme Court has ruled in two major cases on affirmative action, and society has witnessed unparalleled signs of improvement in terms of opportunity, including the election and re-election of the first black president of the United States. 

These events were the primary impetus for the three new volumes edited by Beckman.

"Ten years have now passed since the University of Michigan cases and the 2004 encyclopedia set," he said. "Both myself and the publishers thought the time was right to provide a major update on the status and practice of affirmative action during the last decade, and its prognosis for the future." 

The goal of the 2014 book is to layout out the substance, context and history of affirmative action in a logical and structured format while encompassing the changes of the past decade.

Controversies in Affirmative Action includes essays from national experts working in law, political science, history, critical race theory, women's studies, African American studies, sociology, criminal justice, education and philosophy. Several are written by UCF faculty members and a UCF administrator.

The first volume, "Historical Dimensions," traces the origin and evolution of affirmative action. Volume 2, "Contemporary Debates," covers modern applications and debates, and Volume 3, "Policy across Industry and Place," addresses international practices and critical race theory.

Chapter 7 of Volume 3 hits especially close to home, with legal studies' Lecturer Abby Milon discussing efforts to achieve diversity in Florida universities using a percentage plan approach rather than implementing affirmative action.

Learn more about Controversies in Affirmative Action on

Associate Professor Beckman is the first permanent chair of the Department of Legal Studies. Previously, he held positions at The University of Tampa, U.S. Military Academy at West Point and U.S. Department of the Treasury. He holds degrees from The University of Tampa, The Ohio State University and Georgetown University, and he studied at Oxford University (England). This is his third book on the topic of affirmative action.


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