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Affirmative Action Debate: Have College Admissions Ever Been Fair?

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis visits the headquarters for the non-profit Chinese for Affirmative Action in heart of the Chinatown district of San Francisco, California.

He (Mr. Maguire) Said:

Recently, a group of Asia-Americans called Students for Fair Admissions, have brought a lawsuit against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina claiming that their use of race-based Affirmative Action policies, in making decisions on students’ acceptance to the universities, was discriminatory against Asian-Americans and is intentionally keeping Asian-Americans out of the schools.  (Jacobs, 2014).  The group wants schools to stop using Affirmative Action policies as part of the acceptance process.  The lawsuit is worded to establish that this is about the discrimination against Asian-Americans and that there should be a level playing field for all students regardless of ethnicity in applying to universities.
Here lies the fault in the lawsuit and why we need Affirmative Action policies in education. Affirmative Action was created to help correct historical wrongs done to marginalized ethnic groups in the United States.  African-American, Latina/o, Native American, and female students from all ethnic groups historically were not given the same opportunity as European-American male students in schools.  Those who argue against Affirmative Action want to make others believe that today in 2014 there is a level playing field for all students and ethnicity should not be an issue.  That racism towards African-Americans and Latina/o students no longer exists in America.  GPA, rigorousness of schedule, and standardized test scores are “color blind” and should be the measure of student.  That any differences in scores are based on socio-economic class; the assumption being that students who are in the same class are given similar opportunities and thus are coming from a level playing field and thus Affirmative action policies should focus on socio-economic class and not ethnicity. This ignore the fact that many African-American and Latina/o students are still not given access to the same high level and rigorous education that Asian-American and European-American students are often privileged too, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses even while attending the same schools and thus are not allowed on to the playing field (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004) (Solorzano & Omelas, 2004) .
Finally, it is in the universities best interest to have a multi-cultural student body, since we live in a multi-cultural world.  Having a school of all Asian-American or African-American students does not represent what the real world outside of academy is like.  Many of the admission policies originally put in place at colleges and universities were purposefully meant to exclude students from non-Northern-European heritage ethnic groups and although we have come a long way from the discriminatory days of the middle 20th century it would be irresponsible to stop Affirmative Action policies that encourage and help create ethnic diversity in our colleges and universities.


Works Cited

DeCuir, J. T., & Dixson, A. D. (2004). “So when it comes out, they aren’t that surprised that it is there”: Using critical race theory as a tool of analysis of race and racism in education. Educational Researcher, 33(6), 26-31. doi:10.3102/0013189X033005026
Jacobs, P. (2014, November 14). Harvard is being accused of discriminating against asians. Retrieved from Business Insider:
Solorzano, D. G., & Omelas, A. (2004, Feb-March). A critical race analysis of latina/o and african american advanced placement enrollment in public high schools. High School Journal, 87(3), 15-26.

She (Ms. Sakamoto) said:

As a person who attended a school very similar in demographics to TAS, I was at a major disadvantage due to affirmative action. Although affirmative action was designed to help minorities, it actually harms the chances of certain races winning admittance into many colleges as there are a limited number of places for high-achieving Asians. Only the best of the best Asian students have a  chance to win entry to elite universities.
Admissions should be race-blind so the people who truly deserve it – who have the  qualifications –  win a place. There are certainly circumstances that should be taken into account, but I believe college admittance should  no longer consider race: I strongly bellieve colleges  should adopt admissions policies that focus on class not race. The purpose of affirmative action is to provide people who are at a disadvantage with more opportunities. Disadvantage is no longer necessarily the result of race. There are upper-class African Americans and there are lower-class Whites. Affirmative action should be about the resources available, and the disadvantages that some students face, not about the color of the student’s skin.
I think that historically, affirmative action was a good idea. In theory, it could also be a good idea, but it is not always carried out well. Affirmative action in practice doesn’t always pan out the way it is supposed to.  I fully agree that the students’ experiences should be an important factor in college admissions and diversity is essential to a good college campus. However, can this ever be a fair process?

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