Affirmative Action in College Admission

November 27, 2011

Political Theory

A couple weeks ago, my section discussed affirmative action pertaining to college admissions. Affirmative action is a policy that attempts to advance equality. Often times, affirmative action is enacted to make up for past discrimination which may have caused disadvantages to certain groups of individuals. In the United States, affirmative action is used in many colleges to help promote the diversity on campuses across the nation and to help ensure a certain distribution of various ethnicities.

Take a quick look at this article:

 Two woman, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn a 2003 Supreme Court Case allowing the use of race in the admissions process. They have targeted the University of Texas, believing they were denied simply because they were white. Past high court decisions, including Grutter vs. Bollinger, have allowed the use of race-based affirmative action to select incoming classes. However, in Texas, courts have already shot down race-based admission in Hopwood vs. Texas which forced state universities to find alternative ways of increasing their diversity.

I haven’t quite decided whether or not I agree with affirmative action. On one hand, it promotes the diversity of a school which allows students to experience more individuals with all sorts of cultural backgrounds. In addition, affirmative action helps groups that have been historically discriminated against, including African Americans and Hispanics. However, I also believe that Affirmative Action policies potentially discriminate against white or Asian-American applicants since they do not receive the same benefits as some other ethnic groups. However, I do feel that Fisher and Michalewicz do have a case in their attempts to disallow the use of race in the admissions process since the Hopwood vs. Texas case forced universities to implement other methods at increasing diversity which have shown success. However, I also feel that it is impossible to prove whether or not they were rejected because they were white or because of other factors. Some people believe that affirmative action is necessary because it makes up for past discrimination against African Americans that now do not have the same stability as Caucasians because of it. However, I don’t think I agree with that argument because instead of a race-based affirmative action, economic status could be used as a factor instead to help determine how much an applicant had to overcome.

 The use of Affirmative Action has been an ongoing debate in the college admissions process. Do you believe that this policy promotes a better education with the more diverse campus that affirmative action attempts to achieve? Or do you believe that it is a form of discrimination against Caucasian or Asian-American applicants and should not be continued? What do you think that the philosophers we studied in class, including Rousseau, would think?



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15 Comments on “Affirmative Action in College Admission”

  1. reidmech7892 Says:

    Ideally affirmative action promotes and encourages diversity on college campuses, which provides an eclectic environment for students to learn and grow. However, it seems that affirmative action encourages what it was implemented to get rid of: racial discrimination. By giving minority students an advantage in college admissions over caucasian students, it limits the potential an equal candidate of caucasian decent has by providing leverage for an applicant of minority decent. Furthermore, admission into a university should be based on individual academic and extracurricular achievements, not on their race or ethnicity. Knowing this, when a college or university is given two applicants of equal academic standing, yet one is white and one is african american, they should be viewed holistically equal instead of giving an extra check or point in admission for the african american solely because of his race. In all, affirmative action provides the diversity and eclecticism all college campuses yearn for, however, forbidding a caucasian student’s and advancing a minority student’s admission solely based on their race is wrong and should not be implemented through affirmative action.

  2. jonkeren Says:

    Although affirmative action promotes racial diversity among colleges, it is still a form of reverse discrimination. Since affirmative action essentially gives minorities a “head start” it gives them a leg up in the admissions process compared to caucasians, and Asians etc. To me that is completely unfair because college admissions should not take a persons race into consideration. The decision to accept someone into a university or not should depend entirely on a persons academics and extra curricular activities. Because of affirmative action, reverse discrimination exists in the college acceptance process. Furthermore, I believe that Rousseau would view affirmative action in the college acceptance process as wrong because he believes that everyone should be equal. Affirmative action puts minorities ahead of everyone else in the decision process and therefore this process is unequal.

  3. benjishanus Says:

    There is an old saying that goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” I believe that this is the case with affirmative action. As you indicated, affirmative action may indeed be a method of making up for past discrimination against minorities, however, that does not justify it in my opinion. Should minorities be entitled to an equal evaluation and chance of getting in to any given college? Absolutely. But should they be favored simply because of their background, absolutely not.

    I do think it would be fair to perhaps cut them a bit of leniency based on how they were raised, what kind of resources that had at their disposal (it is very possible that they had to overcome more hurtles than your average white applicant), but that is it. Admissions committee bust be very careful in evaluating whether an applicant comes from a privileged background, an average household, or the slums. That in my opinion should be weighted much more heavily when it comes to college admissions. That being said, I’m confident that there is a correlation between minorities and the type of life style they are brought up in, however, not to the extent that colleges currently label it as. Therefore, I think affirmative action is a decent concept, but must be applied in a more professional mannor.

  4. ianbaker2041 Says:

    We also discussed affirmative action in my section, and I oppose affirmative action in all forms because it is reverse discrimination. I’m a white male, and I would be very resentful if someone said to me “well, you did a little better than person X, but he’s going to get in because he’s African American, and we support affirmative action.” How is there any equality in that? If the African American student did better than me, I would have no problem with him earning admission over me, but to give some students an advantage and not others solely on the basis of a contingent fact of birth is ridiculous.

    I understand the point of affirmative action: make up for a past injustice. But the reality is that while there was once a gross injustice, it was in no way perpetrated by those who affirmative action hurts-Caucasian people living today. I did not enslave blacks and force them to work for me. I did not deny non-whites access to education, healthcare, and the opportunity to make something of themselves. I did not do anything wrong, so I should not be punished for something that I did not do. Everyone should be held to the same standard, and admissions decisions should be based strictly on the basis of ability, not race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

  5. Matthew Bernstein Says:

    This is a very interesting debate, as affirmative action in itself is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides a great opportunity to African American students who may not have the opportunity to attend a certain university due to many factors, including grades, money, etc. However, on the other hand, admitting certain affirmative action students into a university could possibly lead to the exclusion of a qualified white/Asian/Hispanic student who was passed over in favor of the African American student.

    I believe that affirmative action should be modified to include provisions that state that an African American student must achieve a certain grade level in order to qualify for admission. If schools are admitting solely based on race to “make themselves look diverse,” they are only hurting themselves and the student they admit. There absolutely needs to be a change made in order to make sure that affirmative action not only helps African Americans, but also does not hurt any other students of other races.

  6. Baihan Li Says:

    When I was applying to universities in America, a friend of mine told me that, if the average score of SAT is 1800 for a school, you need to get at least 1950 because you a an Asian applicants.

    It is undoubtedly that there are racial discrimination in university admissions. The requirement for Asian applicants are usually higher than that toward American citizens. Especially in public schools, while in-state student can get in UM with a poor GPA, international applicants have to do an outstanding work in SAT and other works. Admission is given not based on whether you are the best among applicants but on whether you are the best within your own race.

    Is this fair? While honor students have higher standard because they choose to, can student choose their race? It’s more like you have to get 3.0 for a C while others can have a B+ with 3.0.

    In fact, I think this has more to do with the goal of university, which was discussed in our second lecture. If the goal of university is to select good resource for the society, applicants with highest GPA and best recommendation should be admitted . If the goal of a university is to educate as many people as it can, the distinction between races becomes reasonable and acceptable.

  7. bsrobin Says:

    There is no easy answer to whether affirmative action is beneficial for society or not. Stated above the author explains how it does increase diversity on campuses which is good and also helps previously discriminated minorities. However, in some ways it punishes the majority of caucasian students simply for being part of the minority. Is that fair? Most would say no if they were asked that question out of context but things get a lot more complicated once college acceptances are involved. Personally, I do not believe that affirmative action is good and it should not be used in college acceptance. Although it absolutely helps groups such as African-Americans, it hurts other citizens for basically no reason. Everyone should be on one equal level and this is the idea that our country is based off. Equality for all is hard to attain but in this situation, it can be easily achieved by eliminating affirmative action.

    Marx would absolutely not support affirmative action because he pushed for equality of all people on all levels. Although his theories related more to economic status’ and issues, he still preferred an equal society, in which no one would be above the other. Because of this, he probably would speak out against the fact that African-Americans and other minorities are rewarding over the majority of students for only being a minority. Hobbes’ theories were not as radical as Marx’s but still he preferred equality in society. Hobbes has written that no one in society is strong enough to rule over other’s labeled as weaker. Although this concerns governance and not college administration, he still promotes equality across all aspects of society and would not support affirmative action, as I do.

  8. euriosti Says:

    I think that affirmative action is a good concept, but needs to be implemented differently. Being given preferential treatment because less is expected of your race, is outright embarrassing. I would never want to attend a university that admitted me due to my race. While admission to elite universities is an accomplishment, admission due to race diminishes the achievement. I think that smart kids out of tough neighborhoods deserve help in going to college, regardless of race. There should be programs that assist with the admissions process and more programs that help the student along the way. There are a lot of kids that work hard, but don’t have the resources to attend the schools that they want. This is where the attention should be focused, and not on just getting minorities into schools.

  9. ngamin1614 Says:

    It’s an issue with no right answer really. I know when I was applying to college I took advantage of this because my dad is pakistani, so I could mark myself down as something other than caucasian so that I could have a higher chance to get accepted to the schools I wanted to go to. I still feel kind of guilty because in my heart I don’t think it’s fair.
    I guess it’s that gut feeling in my heart that tells me that affirmative action isn’t fair that helps me take my stance on this issue. Personally, I think affirmative action is a little unfair. I mean, there is a chance to learn from having a diverse student body at college. Cultures are a very important part of society and they should be learned about, however, does that make affirmative action worth it? Universities could turn down students who have worked harder and received great grades. These students also bring a positive component to college regardless of their race.
    I really just don’t know about this issue though. It’s a very good thing that America is trying to fix racial biases and is attempting to make our country more equal, but affirmative action may not be the way to do it unfortunately.

  10. Austin Telling Says:

    I find the notion of giving college applicants a boost simply because of their race to be counterproductive to reaching equality in our society.

    When filling out my college application last year, I had trouble deciding what to put down for the “race/ethnicity” section. If you were to look at me you would guess that I’m 100% white, but in fact I’m 1/4 Japanese. I couldn’t decide whether or not that I should say I’m “Asian”. Some of this fear came from the rumors I had heard that asian applicants are held to a higher standard that students of other races and ethnicities. I ended up putting down both white and asian, mainly because I wasn’t going to pretend that some of my heritage didn’t exist because it could hurt my chances of being accepted to Michigan.

    What does that say about the affirmative action program that it actually causes some students of backgrounds that aren’t considered in the minority to be afraid of putting down their real races and ethnicities?

    Even if I were considered a minority, I wouldn’t want that to help me get into college. I want to be accepted on my own merit, through my academic promise and integrity, and not simply because I have a different skin color.

    I recently saw an episode of “Stossel” in which the host, John Stossel, organizes an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” in order to discuss affirmative action. He charges Asians $1.50, whites $1.00, and African Americans/Latinos $.50. Naturally, this caused a lot of outrage by passersby, claiming that he should be shut down and that the bake sale is offensive. Stossel’s point was that the Affirmative Action in colleges act in pretty much the same fashion. I’ve included the beginning portion of the episode below:

    If we really want to help further equality in our country, we need to treat everyone the same, and not give advantages (or disadvantages) to people based only on their race or ethnicity.

  11. adamklein1 Says:

    Since affirmative action in the college admissions process was first put in place at the end of the 20th century, it has been a controversial topic. It has been highly debated because although it may help minority candidates, it can occasionally discriminate against Caucasian ones. Although there are valid aspects of both sides of this issue, I am definitively in favor of affirmative action. This policy is not perfect, but the positives outweigh the negatives. For instance, it gives minority students who go to subpar high schools a chance to go to the very best universities. As a result of their socio-economic background, they may not have the standardized test scores that compare to their wealthier counterparts, however, they are still considered based on their other positive attributes because of affirmative action. Additionally, having a more diverse campus also helps the students and staff at the school. A heterogenous university population can lead to more debate, discussion and social learning. So, in sum, although a few worthy students may be shortchanged by affirmative action, overall it is a worthwhile social policy because it improves the lives of the minority students and their peers.

  12. kelseymlee Says:

    While I cannot say I agree with affirmative action, I cannot say that I am completely against it either. I understand that there was a time in our recent history when affirmative action based on race was absolutely necessary to increase diversity, as many universities and institutions would discriminate against candidates simply because of their race, creating a very skewed representation of different races on campuses. While race is still an issue, I do not feel like race-based affirmative action is still necessary today.

    I agree with the author of this post, and if any form of affirmative action is to be used I think it should be affirmative action based strictly on income, and college applications should not even inquire about race anymore. The whole point of affirmative action is to create an equal and level playing field for people, and a wealthy African American already has more opportunities than a poverty stricken white male, for example. Therefore it would make more sense to increase the opportunities given to the poor white male to make things more equal and fair.

    Some may argue that affirmative action based on income would put us in the same predicament, because it is more common for African Americans to have lower incomes than whites or Asian-Americans. This may be the case, but in this instance it would be just. No one race is being discriminated against, because low income white and Asian Americans would have the same opportunities as low income African Americans, resulting in a fair playing field for all people of low incomes, regardless of their race.

    I think Rawls would agree with basing affirmative action off of income rather than race. This is because by employing affirmative action based on income, a greater majority of the worst-off class would benefit, not just African Americans.

  13. jpstern Says:

    I am personally not a fan of affirmative action in all situations. For less fortunate individuals, then sure, give them a better chance of being accepted into college so they can improve their socio-economic standing. To accept minority students that don’t come from unfortunate households who slack off in high school is very harmful to our education system. I also agree that it is a form of discrimination against non-minority students who do well in high school, but just fall short of acceptance due to the use of affirmative action to accept worse performing student. I understand that adding diversity to the educational system is very important, but the use of affirmative action needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. If done correctly then its use is greatly beneficial; if not it is terribly harmful.

  14. pbaumhart Says:

    The grounds on which Affirmative Action was conceived were only with the best of intentions. When John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 it was with the intent to aide in the end to segregation and discrimination in attaining jobs with government contractors. In its infancy there was public disapproval but that eventually subsided. The issue arises from the very specific idea behind a quota system which I could not find mentioned in any of the previous comments or in the post. I believe that the premise behind Affirmative Action has a definite place the admissions process, but if colleges decide that they must admit a certain amount of ethnically and racially diverse individuals then that is where the true issue arises.

    This was one of the major issues that was brought up in the infamous Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court case in 2003. The major reason for dissent by 4 of the justices was that the University of Michigan Law Schools admissions office used a “plus system” which they believed was comprable to a quota system– which was deemed illegal by the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

    Having a diverse school provides to the overall atmosphere and has the potential to enhance the experience. But schools must understand that there is no formula for a perfectly diverse campus. First and foremost the reason for admission should be based off of academic merit, but race should also be taken into account in the admissions process.

  15. adamstillman2011 Says:

    Affirmative Action is a very touchy situation, as are most racial issues in the United States. My personal opinion is that every application should be judged fairly and on the same playing field. It is not fair for an African American student to begin the admissions process 5 points ahead of another white student based on race alone, which is what is stated in the previous Supreme Court Cases. In my Political Science 300 class we have been debating the issue of education as well. Most inner city schools, where minority students frequently attend have terrible facilities and high drop out rates. If there is an African American applicant from the inner city whose grades are slightly below a white suburban student, but the African American student put in the effort and stayed in school and had a great application I think that they should get the spot over a student who lives comfortably in the suburbs. I’m not saying that an African American inner city student with a 1.5 GPA should get into Michigan over a white West Bloomfield kid with a 3.6, but you really have to look at who is going to get more out of the admission at the school. I don’t think that there should be a set policy regarding race and points awarded. In general I think that the whole admissions process should be reformed because it is so difficult for students to get into college these days. I think that each application should be on a case by case basis and spots at schools should be rewarded based on hard work and determination, not on GPA and SAT alone.

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