Counterpoint: Should affirmative action be considered in college admissions?

Ava Fasciano

Ava Fasciano

Zack Siegel, Contributing Writer

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As the school year begins, the stressful college application season also starts, as many seniors across the globe start applying to colleges and universities, with the hopes of being accepted into a school that can positively shape their lives and lead to success in future endeavors.  Unfortunately, students are not all treated equally during the admission process.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines affirmative action as, “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women.”

Theoretically speaking, affirmative action sounds like a noble idea, as every person would be provided with an equal opportunity to do what they desire with their life, especially as it pertains to which college they eventually attend.  However, affirmative action does not give minority groups an equal chance of getting admitted to the school of their choice, as it lowers admission standards for people in the majority, resulting in reverse discrimination.

In an effort to reduce workplace discrimination,  President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961, stating that employers could not discriminate while hiring or paying employees based on race, creed, color, or country of origin.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 built on the previous legislation, and outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin in schools, workplaces, and public places.  Finally, in 1965, President Lyndon B.  Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 requiring companies to document their hiring and employment practices, in an attempt to “even the playing field” and eliminate racial discrimination at all levels of society.

In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may use race as a factor when looking at applications, but only to diversify the school.  The applicant also has to be evaluated on an individual basis.  Unfortunately, colleges today are often more focused on diversity than individual student qualifications.  The result is that affirmative action in the application process runs counter to its stated goals and leads to numerous forms of reverse discrimination.

Affirmative action is an exaggerated attempt to correct historical racial discrimination.  Past discrimination does not justify present discrimination, which is clearly evident, since minorities are favored in the college admission process.

“I think affirmative action was very helpful at first but I don’t think it’s as necessary anymore as it was when the policy was first made,” said senior Molly Schiff.

Since all people should be treated equally under the law, affirmative action does not solve any problems, it simply replaces one problem with another one by creating an inherently unequal situation for students of different races.

Affirmative action destroys the concept of a meritocracy.  The college admission process breaks down when race is the deciding factor for a college, instead of skills and qualifications.

“There will be abuses of any system, but the opportunities that Affirmative Action has created for thousands of students who otherwise would not have had them cannot be ignored,” said senior Brent Katz.

Although this is true, one can not ignore all of the opportunities that have also been taken away from people who were rejected from prestigious universities as a result of affirmative action.  A world without affirmative action would be much more productive at reducing discrimination in the United States.

Finally, affirmative action leads to less qualified students enrolling in universities where they are less likely to succeed.  Given the limited number of spaces in the incoming class of each school, more qualified students are forced to attend less prestigious academic institutions.  This argument is being made today by students at Harvard University.  

A group of Asian-American students at Harvard University recently filed a lawsuit against the school over affirmative action policies that they claim discriminate against Asian American applicants.  The plaintiffs state that the use of affirmative action policies has been discriminatory, since it placed a “cap” on the number of qualified Asian Americans who are accepted to the school.  Their argument is that this limitation increases the acceptance rate for less qualified applicants of other races.  Although Harvard vehemently denies the allegations, the admissions office has defended its race-conscious admissions policies in an effort to intentionally create a diverse learning environment. The case is expected to go to trial this October, so affirmative action is likely to be used for the class of 2023.

The negative effects of Affirmative Action are obvious, especially when looking at situations such as college applications. The abuses of the system by institutions such as Harvard continue to plague the American education system; a system which cannot be truly equal until the policies of reverse discrimination are repealed.

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