Deactivating Affirmative Action
Recently, President Trump ordered the Justice Department to investigate the use of affirmative action in elite university admission. The extent to which this policy helps minority students has diminished to the point that the simultaneous disadvantage to white and Asian students is unmerited.
Nearly all universities and colleges across the nation are unabashed bastions of liberalism, which necessitates a complete overhaul to the system, starting with admissions. Though the Supreme Court has narrowly ruled on multiple occasions that race-based affirmative action in college admissions is constitutional, gradually restricting the process to incorporate a ban on the use of quotas, others see that this is in violation of the "colorblind" stipulations of the Fourteenth Amendment. Beforehand, this may have been seen as necessary to increase representation as colleges first began to admit minorities, but today, this system is outdated, as universities have increased the number of minorities in top-tiered schools since this was initially implemented. While these results are what this process intended to achieve, the detriment to those not favored by this policy highlights its flaws. According to Harvard's most recent data profiling the class of 2021, 50.9% of the accepted students fall into the categories of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, or Native American descent, while 49.1% of the admitted students in the class are white, disproportionate to the overall population according to a U.S. Census estimate of 2016. These minority groups are certainly represented and do effectively compete with the other applicants and should therefore not be granted a free pass into the school.
Other arguments propose that the underprivileged should have the opportunity to excel to the fullness of their potential and that the economic or racial status into which they were born should not act as a lifelong limitation. However, this overlooks the alarming number of low grades and dropout rates that this process can induce. If minority students are coming from an underprivileged area, they may have a more difficult time competing in the atmosphere of an Ivy League school, as they previously have not been exposed to such rigor. Clearly, in these cases, affirmative action is actually more detrimental to these individuals who diversified the class, as their academic performance in these colleges is not as successful as it would be had they attended a different school.
White students are not only the ones feeling the adverse effects. The ACT's annual reports show that Asian students consistently score higher than all other ethnic groups on the standardized test. However, when it comes to Asian applicants, as noted in No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, schools seem to have higher standards for them. According to a Princeton study conducted in 2009, Asians had to score on average 140 points higher on the SAT than whites to have an equal chance at admission. This discrimination is a direct byproduct of this failing policy. Clearly, some of the most qualified applicants are being rejected in order for the school to boast a diverse pool of acceptances. In 2014, a lawsuit was filed against Harvard accusing admissions of having an unconstitutional cap on Asian acceptances, as the percentage of Asians in Harvard's student body had remained about 16 percent to 19 percent for two decades even though the Asian-American percentage of the population had more than doubled. Therefore, in the attempt to diversify the class, these top-tiered colleges seem to make use of a quota-like system in order to boast their commitment diversity, but in reality, they are ousting qualified candidates simply because of their race.
In addition, a race-blind admissions process would eliminate any skepticism and feeling of inadequacy, as it would place a greater emphasis on hard working standards in society, as opposed to the stigma of being given a pass because of one's racial background. According to a study conducted at top law schools, many blacks admitted to law school with the aid of racial preferences face long odds against ever becoming lawyers. Employers may be skeptical of the qualification of an individual for a job after graduation, which only increases racial tensions and poisons the mindset of that individual. This question has been brought to the Supreme Court, where the affirmative action program was narrowly upheld by a 4-3 vote in 2015, centered on a public college in Texas. However, there was substantial research supporting the dissenting side, suggesting that the concern over whether admitting black students to institutions for which their academic preparation is not sufficient may be making them worse off. In his dissenting opinion, Clarence Thomas stated that "the worst forms of racism have always been accompanied by straight-faced representations that discrimination helped minorities," comparing such efforts to segregationists and slaveholders.
According to studies at the University of Michigan, experiencing a racially complex and diverse student body has a positive correlation with enriching one's success in the global marketplace. However, this alone should not be the means by which a college admissions council creates the pool of acceptances. If the college truly wants to form an incoming class with the most deserving candidates while maintaining the school's diversity, it would be best to focus on socioeconomic factors, regardless of race. Relying on this information to increase the chances of the disadvantaged in all racial groups would be a step toward amending the negative effects of this process. This would limit the stigma of undermining the number of successful, high-income minority students who can compete on their own merits. In addition, the truly disadvantaged but accomplished students within the Asian population as well as whites in rural or lower-performing economic areas would not be rejected simply because of a certain box they check on their applications. In order for colleges to truly enable the most competent applicants to receive the most rigorous education in the world, the use of a race-blind admissions process is most logical.
Across the nation, there is a significant number of qualified minority students capable of attending these schools on their own merit, regardless of their race. Placing any student, notwithstanding his race, in a school at which he may not be academically prepared to study only increases dropout rates and negative experiences for the student. This is why admission to these universities must be race-blind and cater toward socio-economic factors to diversify the class, to avoid such instances. Accepting applicants largely based on objective measurements including their standardized test scores, rigor of curriculum, and extent of participation in viable extra-curricular activities would be beneficial to all involved.
Olivia Ingrassia is a co-host of the Right on Point Podcast and a rising sophomore at Fordham University. For more information, visit rightonpointpodcast.com.