The argument for affirmative action

As college admission representatives receive applications from students across the US, many are faced with the difficult decision of who to accept. Many students appear the exact same on paper: good grades, involved in extra curriculars, and hard working. Which brings up a tough question: to diversify the campus and increase the minority to the majority, should race be considered in college admission?  And how much influence, if any, should affirmative action have?

A situation to portray that dilemma is easy to think of. One white student is up against an African American student with slightly lesser grades for admission into a college. Technically, the white student should get in because that student has higher grades and is more qualified. Or should colleges choose the African American student to bring diversity to the campus?

Accepting the white student is understandable because that student is most eligible. On the other hand, accepting the African American student is reasonable as well, because diversity is an important element to have on campus.

A recent article in the New York Times detailed a case brought to the Supreme Court involving a girl denied admission to University of Texas at Austin. Abigail Fisher, after recently graduating from Louisiana State University, decided to sue the University of Texas at Austin, claiming that she was denied admission four years ago based on her race. The university said that Fischer, who is white, was denied admission based on her academic record. The school looked to uphold its affirmative action program, which creates a diverse student body at the university.

Affirmative action allows colleges, businesses, and other organizations to base the people they accept/hire off of factors such as race, color, and religion.

The situation can be replicated with different majorities and minorities. The majority could be whites/Christians/girls/private school students, meaning the minority would be African Americans or Hispanics/Muslims/boys/public school students. The case could even be made for an upper class valedictorian against a lower class student with good grades whose parents didn’t go to college. In this scenario, the student who should probably be accepted is the valedictorian, since she clearly has better grades. Or should the first time student be accepted because she is the minority in this case, and thus accepting her would add diversity to the college?

Obviously, scenarios such as these have multiple viewpoints. In one case, it isn’t fair to accept students based purely on skin color any more than it is to accept students based solely on class.

But the experiences diversity offers aren’t available if the same old same student is admitted.

Previous court cases have backed affirmative action in the use of college admissions for schools that seek to “achieve student body diversity”, according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute. In April 2003, a girl denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School sued the school on the basis that she was “rejected because the Law School uses race as a predominant factor,” in what is known as the Grutter v. Bollinger case. The Supreme Court deemed the University’s use of affirmative action lawful, as race was just a “potential ‘plus’ factor” used in admissions.

I agree with the Supreme Court’s history of backing affirmative action. Personally, I do not want to go to a school where everyone is just like me: a white, Christian, middle class athlete. Diversity at a college is necessary to broaden its’ students beliefs and worldview. An article backing affirmative action in the New York Times’ Upfront magazine states that while “potential and ability are evenly distributed across lines of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and socioeconomic status…opportunities are not.” Affirmative action is a necessary step in the process of providing equal opportunities to all people.

1 Comment on "The argument for affirmative action"

  1. Claire Rider | December 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm |

    WOW !! Terrific article. I am proud of you for your insight into a very complex situation.
    GM

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