Society

Racial quotas changed the face of Brazilian universities. Now they are at risk

Introduced in 2002, Brazil's quotas policy reserves a percentage of public university vacancies for non-white and poor students. And it has had a huge effect on access to education

The University of Brasília pioneered the adoption of racial quotas to increase diversity within its student body.
The University of Brasília pioneered the adoption of racial quotas to increase diversity within its student body. Photo: UnB/Flickr

In November 1993, a group of university students in São Paulo had dinner at the Maksoud Plaza Hotel, one of the city’s most expensive at the time, and refused to pay their USD 700 bill.

Far from a dine and ditch, this was a protest. The students belonged to a movement entitled Reparations Now, which demanded affirmative action policies for black and multiracial Brazilians. The idea was to parody the dia de pendura, a tradition among law students in the country by which they do not pay to eat and drink at fancy restaurants every August 11.

At the time,...

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