The recent lawsuit accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian applicants has brought a controversial question back into the national spotlight: Is affirmative action a fair practice?
Affirmative action is a policy that allows universities to take into account racial diversity when accepting students. Its goal is to offer equal educational opportunities to underrepresented minorities.
Attending a school with a larger Asian-American population than most high schools in the nation can cause students to have a misguided understanding of the effects of affirmative action. Many students in Diamond Bar High School feel that affirmative action is unfair, because students with lower test scores or grades from other schools are chosen over themselves.
Diamond Bar students fail to take into account the resources they have in comparison to others—to most students across the globe, having access to computers and textbooks is a luxury, and SAT classes or tutoring sessions are unheard of. Grades and test scores are not a holistic representation of a students’ abilities or how hard someone has worked. To say that a peer didn’t deserve to get into a school simply because they have comparatively lower stats, and was only accepted because of “affirmative action,” unfairly diminishes that person’s accomplishments.
Still, affirmative action is not without problems. Though it has a commendable goal of preventing continued injustice toward groups that been systematically denied opportunities throughout American history, there are issues with the technical execution of the system.
Affirmative action attempts to give an advantage to underprivileged groups, yet it puts economically challenged members of white or Asian communities at even more of a disadvantage. It also aids racial minorities from wealthier backgrounds who might not need an extra advantage.
Though affirmative action attempts to prevent education from only being available to the elite, simply looking at a student’s race is not enough to ensure that this happens. A system based on economic class rather than race ensures students from all incomes are represented on campuses and would give all economically disadvantaged students a fairer assessment, regardless of their race.
Some might say that having a racially diverse campus is an important part of creating a college experience that enables students to explore new ideas, but this is bound to happen even if universities switch to economic affirmative action. Looking at U.S. poverty rates shows that giving an advantage to lower income applicants will actually open up more opportunities for underrepresented racial minorities.
A study of the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that underrepresented minorities were more likely to be admitted under class-based affirmative action than a race-based alternative.
The United States is a diverse nation, and being part of a student body that reflects this is essential to one’s college education. Reforming affirmative action to account for economic diversity would benefit all students by exposing them to people from a variety of backgrounds, without using race to make unfair assumptions about the struggles that they have faced.