Connect with Berea

 Berea on facebook

 Alumni on facebook


 Berea videos on


Kellough Publishes Book Addressing Affirmative Action

Berea graduate, Dr. J. Edward Kellough, '77, Professor and MPA and PhD Program Director in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia, has authored a new book Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice (Georgetown University Press, 2006, ISBN: 1589010892).

BCnow spoke with Dr. Kellough over the phone recently, and this is what he had to say about his new book:

BCnow: Tell us about your new book.

Kellough: The new book addresses Affirmative Action from a general perspective and provides a broad overview of the history and development of the policy. It seeks to promote further understanding of a number of issues associated with affirmative action. I found in looking at information available in the popular press that there is a considerable amount of misunderstanding on the subject. The book tries to explain, for example, that there are a number of specific policies that bear the label Affirmative Action, but people often donít think about it like that. Also, these differing policies have different implications for core principles like non-discrimination or a strict adherence to equality.

The book looks also at philosophical arguments regarding affirmative action and reviews empirical evidence on the impact of the policy. The focus is primarily on policies that literally transcend the concept of non-discrimination by granting preferences to minority group members and women. There is only a limited amount of empirical research that addresses those programs.

Finally, I address the legal framework or boundaries of affirmative action, especially preferential policies. Questions include, why are such programs structured the way they are, and what are the limits set for these policies by the courts? These issues are not well understood. In fact, you frequently hear inaccurate statements in the popular media about what the law is and what the Supreme Court has said. The book tries to present the legal parameters of affirmative action in a very clear fashion. Two chapters review legal aspects of affirmative action, and a concluding chapter discusses the future and what it may hold.

BCnow: What sparked your interest in the policy of affirmative action?

Kellough: Itís something Iíve been interested in for a long time. I was interested in questions of equal opportunity and understanding how we try to combat discrimination. When I was in graduate school in the early 80s, affirmative action, as a policy, was receiving a lot of attention and was being challenged significantly. At the time there was much discussion and argument but not much in terms of empirical data and systematic analysis. I thought that if someone could contribute that kind of analysis that it would be worthwhile. I have an earlier book published in 1989 from my PhD dissertation that focuses on an empirical assessment of the effects of affirmative action in the federal civil service. The question of discrimination and how we as a society deal with it and how we work to help ensure opportunities for everyone is very important and, I think, very interesting.

BCnow: What is the core issue surrounding affirmative action?

Kellough: Itís really about the redistribution of resources and opportunities, and the stakes are high both for the intended beneficiaries and for others who perceive that they would be better off without affirmative action. Itís an important issue, so it generates intense reactions. In principle you could advocate strict non-discrimination and no affirmative action preference as being a desirable way to go. But as it evolved, the rate of progress of minorities and women was excruciatingly slow under that approach, and thatís how the policy evolved to eventually include preferences.

It is also interesting to note that the negative impact on individuals who are not preferred by the policy can often be exaggerated. This is something that people often donít think about. Itís analogous, for example, to the fact that sometimes there are reserved parking spaces set aside for disabled drivers. Any particular non-disabled driver may look at such a space and, seeing that itís empty, may feel that were it not for the preference there would be an empty spot where he or she would be able to park. But the fact of the matter is that if there were no reserved parking places, an individual non-disabled driver would likely find that those places were already filled. The availability of reserved spaces for disabled drivers, therefore, does not significantly reduce the probability that any specific individual non-disabled driver will find a parking space. Similarly, the probability of selection of a non-minority or male applicant goes down by an extremely small amount under affirmative action. However, the probability of selection of a woman or member of a minority group goes up significantly. Nevertheless, because the consequences are so significant -- weíre talking about employment, the distribution of business opportunities, and coveted seats in institutions of higher education -- affirmative action generates substantial controversy.

BCnow: You were an industrial arts major. How did you develop an interest in political science?

Kellough: After I graduated from Berea, I taught in the public school system in Lexington for three years. But I had an academic interest that hadnít been explored. There was an interest in political science initially. While I was teaching in Lexington I was living in Berea, and I started taking a few graduate classes at Eastern. I found that what was really interesting to me was public administration or management in government. I found questions of management, work motivation, and issues of job satisfaction intriguing, and I began taking a few classes at Eastern on those topics. It really further stimulated my interest, and as a result, I decided to go to graduate school full-time to explore those subjects in more depth.

BCnow: What group of people does the book target? Who is your intended audience?

Kellough: I think the book is targeted toward students and faculty members at the College and University level who have an interest in this issue. Itís also targeted toward people in general who wish to understand this issue more fully. Everyone is generally familiar with the term affirmative action, and itís an issue on which opinions are quite galvanized. There is significant conflict, debate, and argument, and also a fair amount of confusion. I hoped to help reduce levels of misunderstanding and in that way contribute to our national dialogue on affirmative action by clarifying certain key points that tend often to be overlooked.

BCnow: What other books have you been involved with?

Kellough: In addition to the earlier book on affirmative action in the federal civil service and the new book on affirmative action, there are two other books that came out this year. One is a co-authored text on Public Personnel Administration and the other is an edited book on civil service reform in the states. I collaborated on both of those projects with a colleague from Georgia State University, Lloyd G. Nigro. Iíve also contributed more than 30 articles to academic journals and a significant number of book chapters.

BCnow: In closing, what do you want us to remember?

Kellough: I want to note that were it not for Berea College, I wouldnít have gone to college at all. I wouldnít have been able to afford any place else, but Berea made it possible for me because there was no tuition and they had the student labor program. I owe Berea quite a bit and havenít fully repaid that debt. I donít know if I can ever fully repay Berea for what the College has given me.

Biographical Statement:

Dr. J. Edward Kellough (Berea 1977) is Professor and MPA and PhD Program Director in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia. He specializes in public personnel management, public administration, and program evaluation. Dr. Kellough is a member of the Executive Council of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) and a member of the NASPAA Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the American Political Science Association, Section on Public Administration. His most recent books include Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice (Georgetown University Press, 2007); The New Public Personnel Administration, sixth edition, with Lloyd G. Nigro and Felix A. Nigro (Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007); and Civil Service Reform in the States: Personnel Policy and Politics at the Sub-National Level, edited with Lloyd G. Nigro (State University of New York Press, 2006). His research has also appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Public Administration Review, The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, The Review of Public Personnel Administration, The American Review of Public Administration, Social Science Quarterly, and many other journals. He has lectured in China, The Republic of Georgia, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine. Kellough can be contacted via email at

© 2004 Berea College. All rights reserved.
Site design and development by Berea College Web Team.