Affirmative Action: Con

Justin Su, Managing Editor

With the Class of 2018 college cycle in full swing and the Department of Justice investigating Harvard for their use of affirmative action, race-based admissions policies are once again being brought into the spotlight. Affirmative Action policies favor individuals of a race that have historically been discriminated against, typically African-Americans or Latino-Americans. Normally, these policies have been used to maintain diversity in schools and the workplace, providing a ‘boost’ to individuals of a race who may not have had as many opportunities as someone from another race. This creates diversity and provides college admissions the ability to consider an applicant’s race when creating their future class. Diversity is the strongest argument in support of affirmative action, enabling students to interact with and understand people of different backgrounds and perspectives, transforming their worldview.  It promotes interracial relations, breaks down bigotry, and creates mutual respect.

However, my support for the abolishment of affirmative action stems from elsewhere entirely. Affirmative action fundamentally assumes that minorities, such as African-Americans, are disadvantaged and that Asian-Americans are privileged. However, when these assumptions are not met, the weight that a person’s race has on admissions becomes unfair. In these scenarios, a privileged African-American individual is over-favored by these admissions policies, while a disadvantaged Asian is further thrown into the hole. While these blanket assumptions might work well on the large scale, it is impossible to deny that these individual injustices do occur. College admissions should be based on merit, not race.

Additionally, many of these elite institutions have affirmative actions policies that discriminate against Asian Americans. For example, a 2004 Princeton study found that elite universities often hold Asian Americans to a higher standard than other races; coming from an Asian background was comparable to the loss of 50 SAT points. While the population of Asians aged 18-21 has doubled from around 400,000 to around 800,000 from 1990 to 2011, the percentage of Asians enrolled in Ivy League colleges, which exercise affirmative action, has remained constant between 15-18%. However, at other elite institutions that do not exercise affirmative action, like UC Berkeley, the percent of Asians enrolled has even reached 40%.

My argument is not that a student should be reduced to numbers and be solely admitted through them; that’s ludicrous. The amount of hardship an applicant has overcome to reach where they stand, which is what affirmative action policies are trying to summarize, should definitely be a factor of admissions. However, affirmative action is too broadly assuming and fails to accurately assess many individual cases, which ironically is what holistic admissions practices are supposed to do. Instead of using affirmative action, a new system should be implemented to gauge the amount of hardship an applicant has undergone.

There’s no denying that Blacks are disproportionately disadvantaged compared to other races. However, fixing this disparity should not begin at higher education. We, as a society, ought to target the roots of this complex issue, such as fixing inner city schools and dropout rates, and work to prevent a gap from existing in the first place, rather than use policies like affirmative action as a band-aid.

Diversity, though important, is outweighed by the principle of equality. America was founded on the basis of providing everybody with equal opportunity, and affirmative action undermines that. Everybody, regardless of race, should be evaluated equally, and that’s why affirmative action should not exist.