Michael Wang had a perfect ACT score and GPA, placed third nationally in piano, and sang at former president Barack Obama’s inauguration. He stared at the letter blankly, which revealed the sixth out of seven Ivy League he had been rejected to. He later learned that many people less qualified than him were being accepted. The one problem: his race (Hirsch). Affirmative action in higher education specifies to admission policies favoring groups that have been historically marginalized or excluded.
This causes universities to alter the qualifications for different races and genders, making it harder for some races to be accepted into the same school. Some schools may also do this so that their campuses are more racially diverse. So many students work so hard to get into their dream universities, why should they get rejected because of their race or gender? Affirmative action should be banned because it discriminates against some races, harms minorities, and does not benefit minority students.
The history of affirmative action has affected how different races are treated. As a result of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, affirmative action was created to benefit minority groups and women in education and the workforce. In 1961, John F. Kennedy created an Executive Order where he instructed government officials to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin”(Hultin). Three years later, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was created. Under Title VI, discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in a program funded by the government or that receives funds from the government was banned.
This prohibition is violated by intentional discrimination and methods of administration, which may appear neutral but discriminates against individuals based on their race, color, creed, and origin. Unless the recipient can show that the violation is beneficial to the nondiscriminatory objective, the practices are eliminated (“Civil Rights Requirements”). Several court cases have debated whether racial preferences in schools violate Title VI.
In 1997, Barbara Grutter, a white resident from Michigan, applied for the University of Michigan Law School. Although she had an LSAT score of 161 and a 3.8 undergraduate GPA, her admission was denied. The school stated that it used race as a factor for diversification of its student body. In the end, the court had a five to four decision because they believed that the laws didn’t prohibit the schools from using race for admission. In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian senior from Texas, applied for the University of Texas but was denied.
Fisher believed that the University’s use of race was violating the Equal Rights Protection Clause. The University of Texas replied stating that the racial bias was to maintain a more diversified campus. The court’s decision was seven to one, in favor of affirmative action (“Affirmative Action Court”).
Today, recent studies show that the amount of racial preference towards university admissions has gone down. While working on a recent report, Daniel Hirschman from Brown and Ellen Berry from the University of Toronto, found that over the past two decades, the number of universities who use race as part of admissions dropped from sixty percent down to thirty-five percent. Recent studies also show that the most prestigious schools still choose to have racial preference while affirmative action used in lower-ranking schools has dropped immensely. Furthermore, many schools have started to end affirmative action resulting in the levels of black and Hispanic to drop.
Schools such as the University of Texas and the University of California Berkeley who have banned affirmative action now see a drastic decline in diversity and also an increase in competition among students (Weissmann). In summary, affirmative action has changed through history but has always allowed for racial preference. To begin, racial preferences in schools has resulted in many conflicts about affirmative action, many that include the government. Supporters of affirmative action believe that it gives a boost to students who are minorities or first-generation, helping them build a professional network that their families may lack.
However, Asians have been treated with discrimination in the past through Japanese intern camps during World War II and Chinese Americans facing segregation. Without affirmative action, the Asian-American admission to elite universities would increase drastically complicating the system of affirmative action. In a study by Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung from Princeton University, without racial preference in admissions, Asian-American acceptance at more competitive universities would grow from 23.
7 percent to 31.5 percent (Kahlenberg). The advantages and disadvantages of each race can cause many students to stress about which box to check on ethnicity and race. For mixed raced students, the question is even more stressful. Should they check one box or both? When filling out her applications, Natasha Scott was unsure of what race to mark. With an Asian mother and black father, she knew that her chances of getting accepted were lower putting down Asian.
Scott eventually decided to mark black after discussing with her mother and many from the electronic bulletin board, College Confidential. Other students have tried to hack the system. A college counselor, Scott White says, “It comes up all the time. If one grandparent is of Spanish heritage, would this kid be getting an admissions bump?” This illustrates that students are so desperate to get into a college because their race is at a disadvantage that they try to find loopholes in the process. Another asked on College Confidential if having a French great-grandfather that was born in Algeria would allow her family to be African-American. The decision was no (Saulny and Steinberg).
In August of 2017, Trump stated that his team will take on Affirmative Action and that many students who were accepted into universities did not deserve it. The Justice Department is looking at “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” reported The New York Times. Many of these investigations will take place in elite universities, the main school targeted, Harvard University (Richardson). In summary, many groups including the government have created conflicts around affirmative action. To begin, by allowing affirmative action, racial discrimination is being exercised. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly states that every citizen is equal:All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (U.S. Const. Amend. IV, Sec. 1). Affirmative action is easily violates the Fourteenth Amendment since affirmative action does not treat all citizens fairly because some races have an advantage while others are at a disadvantage.
Although affirmative action was created to stop discrimination of race, universities that use race as a factor for admissions, are still showing racial prejudice. This results in benefits for black and Hispanic students while white and Asian students are discriminated against for their race. Affirmative action harms students in any form. On average, black and Latino students are less prepared than their Asian counterparts. In the entering class at the University of Texas in 2009, blacks had a mean GPA of 2.57 and the mean score on the 2009 SAT was 1524; Hispanics had a mean GPA of 2.83 and an SAT score of 1794; the mean GPA for whites was a 3.
04 and SAT score was 1914; and the mean Asian GPA was a 3.01 and SAT score of 1991 (Thomas). By admitting minorities to a more competitive school, they are less likely to do well matched with students who are more academically prepared.
If those minorities had gone to a less elite college, they would be fairly matched with other students with the same academic background. Besides harming minorities, white and Asian students are also harmed. The students who are not accepted are forced to attend another school where their education is unfairly matched, and the material is unable to challenge the students. In summary, affirmative action supports discrimination because it causes prejudice based on race. Despite being created to benefit minorities, affirmative action has established a negative effect on minority students. Many students of minority background have lower standards and do not work as hard for acceptance into universities. Since they know that they have an advantage, minority students become dependent on affirmative action or other bonuses that they may receive throughout their education and career.
This ultimately leads to them becoming weaker and lowering their potential. In contrast, Asians and whites must work much harder but still may not be accepted into their dream schools. In addition, once accepted into an elite university, minority students may not work as hard.
For example, if a black or Hispanic student was accepted into an Ivy League with a 3.0 GPA, they wouldn’t work as hard in college to receive a 4.0. On the contrary, a white or Asian student who was accepted into the Ivy League with a 4.0 GPA will continue to work hard trying to maintain the same GPA. Many students from minority backgrounds also become more dependent on benefits.
Without anything to depend on in college, many students have a difficult time learning and won’t do as well in school. Minorities also struggle more when accepted into a more elite college. Usually, black and Latino students do not experience as much competition compared to white and Asian students. When placed in a more competitive college, the student may be unable to learn or compete as well as other students.
The term “mismatch” is often used to describe the theory which explains why black and Hispanic students may receive lower grades and fail exams in major universities because they have no hope in succeeding in their new educational setting (Sander and Taylor). In brief, minorities that are accepted into universities because of affirmative action face challenges when competing against their white and Asian counterparts. In addition, affirmative action does not necessarily benefit the lower-class who have not received a good education. Many schools have a preference to accept wealthier minorities to benefit themselves. One of the main purposes of affirmative action was to give an advantage to minority students who did not receive a good education. This leads many to believe that universities are not promoting social mobility but admitting the wealthier students for money.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pressured the University of Texas for using racial preference to accept wealthy minorities. He stated, “I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students who come from underprivileged backgrounds.” In 2004, Stephen Rose and Anthony Carnevale from Georgetown University found that although the African American and Hispanic representation tripled because of affirmative action, there was no boost for the lower classes (Kahlenberg). This shows that although once used to benefit the low-income minority students, many schools now use affirmative action for their own benefit by admitting wealthier students who can afford their own tuition.
Furthermore, lower-class students may be unable to catch up with their peers because of their lack of a good education. Schools in low-income districts are unable to supply their students with skilled teachers. Additionally, students of poverty may not have guardians who pressure them to go to school or do well in school. This causes students to both not have an education with proper teachers and education techniques, as well as not care as much about their education. Eventually, this leads to low-income students being behind their peers once they reach higher education. Affirmative action should also not just apply to students from minorities. It is often assumed that all lower-class students are minorities but in reality, there are many students who are not considered minorities and are unable to benefit from affirmative action. Many also presume that one race has a better education than another.
While it may usually be the case that most colored schools are unable to afford better education tools, many white and Asian students are also unable to afford a good education. Ultimately, low-income minority students are not inevitably able to benefit from affirmative action. Supporters of affirmative action often argue that racial prejudice still exists and the law allows for a post-racial society and more diverse college campuses. Affirmative action permits more students of color to be accepted into universities.
A diverse campus is able to immerse students who are not used to a multi-racial society into a campus with multiple ethnicities, races, colors, and religions. Which allows for them to learn to thrive in the diverse real world. Moreover, after many states banned affirmative action, the number of Latino and black students accepted decreased compared to the population growth of Hispanics and blacks. Furthermore, affirmative action can solve implicit biases; the thought that black or Hispanic students are not as smart as white students. This causes our understanding, behavior, and actions towards people to be based on skin color. Evidence also shows that this occurs in school when teachers grade papers. Many teachers will not knowingly grade the papers of black and Hispanic students harsher because they have lower expectations for the student. On the other hand, teachers will grade Asian and white students easier because they hold higher expectations.
Those in favor of affirmative action believe that the world is far from a time where racial prejudice does not exist. According to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, the population of Hispanic and black students is more segregated than any time after the 1960s and with access to higher education for minorities, there will soon be a day where affirmative action is unnecessary. In summary, those for affirmative action claim that the law will eventually lead to a day where affirmative action is no longer necessary. While advocates for affirmative action believe that the law will contribute to a post-racial society, research shows that an income-based affirmative action is the best option. Low-income students attend under-resourced schools where guidance for college is limited. The lack of a good education and less access to AP and harder level course causes the student to perform worse on the SAT, ACT, and state tests than other students. By using class-based programs, affirmative action would return to its original vision.
President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965 that, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains, and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of the race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others’ and still say that you have been completely fair” (Kahlenberg). Despite the fact an income-based affirmative action may be beneficial to students who are not from minorities, universities will still maintain minority representation. While both social and economic forces cause elite schools to be richer and whiter, low-income African-American and Hispanic students tend to live in areas more-concentrated in poverty than their white and Asian counterparts. Furthermore, black and Latino students are less likely to apply to select universities because of the driving changes. Matthew Gaertner, a scientist at Pearson for college and career success, created a framework for an income and class-based affirmative action at Colorado University-Boulder. He created a disadvantage index, measuring the likelihood for the applicant to apply to a university based on socioeconomic status. The program weighs in multiple factors, including the teacher to student ratio at the student’s high school, how many dependents their parents are supporting, and the first language of the student.
Based on the circumstances of the student, they are classified in three categories: disadvantaged, disadvantaged, or severely disadvantaged; and exhibiting no achievement, high achievement, or extraordinary achievement (Quinton). After affirmative action was banned in 1998 in California, schools began to use socioeconomic preference. After doing so, twenty percent of lost minority students at Berkeley and thirty percent at UCLA students were offset (Camera). Undoubtedly, the research and experiments show that an income-based affirmative action is the best way to diversify the campus while disregarding racial preferences. Overall, maintaining racial diversity at universities is a complicated idea with both benefits and disadvantages.
Although created to benefit minority students, the approach is outdated and harms all colors of students. The current process of affirmative action serves as being a cause of prejudice and discrimination. What once worked in the past is no longer able to benefit students and should be reconsidered. A class-based system benefits students who might not have had a good education allowing them to have a lower playing field. A new policy should be activated that does not consider a student based on the color of their skin, but hardships faced and their accomplishments.