U-T: Affirmative Action Tweet Gets Negative Reaction

First came the weekend tweet from Tony Young, San Diego’s City Council president: “My daughter was accepted into the college of her choice today. Soon she will be off to Philly.”

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Then came the loaded question from local entrepreneur Michael Robertson: “Did she get preferential treatment because of her skin pigment?”


“Dude,” replied Young, an African American, “you are fortunate that you did not say that to my face.”

“+1,” echoed San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria as criticism poured in.

Robertson was called jackass, tool, bigot. One person called his comment “the most insulting tweet I think I’ve ever seen.” Another wrote, “Being judged on the content of your character doesn’t seem to be working out for you.”

No one sprang to Robertson’s defense. The closest anyone came was this: “Suggesting his daughter can’t get into college w/out affirmative action = wrong way to start a productive conversation about it.”

Aiming for productivity Monday (mine at work, if not the conversation’s), I called Robertson and Young so we could talk in bursts of more than 140 characters. Turns out Robertson’s tact is off but his timing isn’t.

Affirmative action at colleges and universities is making national news. A federal appeals court upheld California’s ban on affirmative action in public college admissions four weeks ago. Six weeks before that, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it could end affirmative action in college admissions nationwide after it hears a Texas case this fall.

Young told me he’s more worried about paying for tuition than debating political views on college that have no bearing on his daughter. She’s a dancer who went to her first class at age 3 and will attend others at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on her own merits, he said.

“No one can control that,” Young said. “She has control of her destiny, how hard she works. And she did it herself.”

Young said he cried happily for days as a proud father. But as a protective dad, he’ll share fewer details about his three daughters on social media sites from now on.

In our interview, Robertson didn’t back down from his critics or apologize.

“I just asked a question, a reasonable question given the state of affairs around the country,” he said. “Our government should treat all citizens the same, and it bothers me that you have government funded entities that play favorites.”

Here’s the thing: The debate over affirmative action won’t get resolved in 140 characters or a 500-word column. That doesn’t mean the conversation shouldn’t happen. It means there’s a time and a place for it.

I shared a father-daughter moment of my own on Twitter this weekend.

I wrote, “Me: As long as you’re living under my roof you’re gonna do what I tell you. Ella, 4: Then I’m gonna go on the roof.”

Here’s the thing: In 14 years, I’ll be the one shouting from those rooftops where Ella is going to college.

For other stories from our news partner, go to utsandiego.com.

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