Point: Should affirmative action be considered in college admissions?

Margret Carl, Contributing Writer

Throughout childhood, one is constantly reminded of the importance of higher education and the need to set oneself apart from the crowd.  The notion that one’s peers will also be your competition only serves to heighten the pressure for acceptance from colleges.  This extra pressure may serve as an extra incentive for some, but what happens when a part of the application process is uncontrollable?

Affirmative action was first implemented in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order to ensure that prospective employees would not be discriminated against based upon their race or color.  Since then, affirmative action has been greatly altered, and the term is most easily recognizable through the sphere of higher education.  Colleges often pride themselves on taking up a policy of diversity and try to regulate the incoming class on that basis.  Recently, the prestigious Harvard University has come under fire for discriminating against Asian Americans, who claim that affirmative action has actually served to work to their disadvantage rather than to their advantage. 

By denying a college placement to an Asian American student, a university may be giving placement to an African American student.  If one were to break it down that way, it seems impossible to not point out the hypocrisy: by trying to treat everyone with equal opportunity, someone is treated unequally in the process.  One must look at what purpose affirmative action serves then, as well as why college admission officers can’t leave race out of the equation in the first place.

 “I find it difficult to side against the policy of affirmative action,” said senior Joyce Chen.  “I find it difficult to have race be a factor in applications, but affirmative action’s purpose is to provide diversity and no one wants to go to a college campus and feel unwelcome or unwanted because of who they are.” 

A class that truly embodies an array of people – from a variety of races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds – creates a better college experience for all, because diversity of peoples often breeds diversity of thought.  The Ivy League, which is comprised of prestigious schools such as the aforementioned Harvard University, has a reputation of exceptional education, excellent career opportunities, and, perhaps the most recognizable, selective admissions.  But because of the benefits of having a diverse class, it is beneficial to give placement to six white students and six African American students rather than placement to twelve white students.  

The New York Times published an article last August discussing the lack of African Americans and Hispanics in these prestigious schools even with affirmative action policies in place.  Without affirmative action, it can be argued that these statistics would only be lower as opportunities were suppressed.  In the United States, African Americans are still underprivileged compared to their counterparts, as America’s previous policies of federal discrimination and segregation, put African Americans at a severe disadvantage from the start.  Therefore, having African Americans in attendance to these prestigious schools serves to even further bolster their prestige. 

Ultimately, although the policy of affirmative action is undoubtedly flawed, this does not necessarily mean that it should be completely disregarded, as having a diverse student body that represents the diverse world we live in is essential to the success of the school and the students attending.