Race-conscious enrollment in the college admissions race
Two Blue & Gold writers debate affirmative action, which allows universities to consider race as a factor in admissions. Currently, the limited use of affirmative action is legal, but racial quotas are deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Staff writer Julian Lee (’18) argues for its implementation, while staff writer Barron Tsai (’19) argues against it in this article.
Eight hours of SAT classes, every day of winter break. Stacks of homework from your nine AP courses. A constant barrage of harshly graded in-class essays. To many Taipei American School students, these may sound more like punishments from hell than privileges. In college admissions, however, the truth is that these practices are actually educational resources that give students a massive advantage—an advantage that is too often denied to
blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics.
Critics of affirmative action policies argue that college admissions should be judged purely on “merit,” that it is unfair to reject the white student with a 1500 on the SAT for the black student with a 1400. However, these critics fail to understand—or perhaps purposely overlook—that many privileged white and Asian students, with their fancy prep classes and well-run schools, enjoy a huge head start towards their impressive scores. In contrast, according to research conducted by the United States Department of Education, almost 20 percent of black students do not even have access to AP classes in their school, let alone expensive tutoring outside of it. Thus, the truly unfair policy is judging scores and grades without context.
Spread across the U.S. and the world, there are thousands of black, Native American, and Hispanic high school students who are just as talented as their high-achieving white and Asian counterparts. Yet, many of these promising students lack the financial and educational support to improve their GPAs and SAT scores.
By giving disadvantaged minorities more leeway in the numbers game, affirmative action helps to maximize their
potential, as Mr. Dante Benson, an African-American TAS social studies teacher and Pomona College alumnus, can attest. “Affirmative action was an important, contributing factor into getting me where I am today,” he says. “I came from a low-income community outside of Philadelphia. I never had an SAT tutor. But the schools being able to take account variations in socioeconomic status—it definitely helped me out. And after graduating from Pomona, I can say that I was just as capable as any other never got to Pomona, I would never have known that I was capable of achieving success on the level of those students.”
As if the tiny benefit of promoting racial equality were insufficient to justify it, affirmative action also gives us the gift of diversity, one of the most appealing aspects of attending university in the U.S. As Ms. Nancy Chien, TAS
College Counselor, says, “When you bring in students of color, you can understand students from other backgrounds, from lower-income families, from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.” Moreover, the diversity brought about from affirmative action is not just a diversity of culture, but a diversity of character.
An underprivileged minority student who struggles to make ends meet and works part time after school to help
support her family will bring her resilience to her college campus. And in doing so, she will add more to the student body than yet another academic overachiever. One day, our society may become so fair that all races will have equal access to quality primary and secondary education. On that day, I will be the first to call for these policies to be abolished—but until then, long live affirmative action.