Harvard University
Los Altos High School

Opinion: Affirmative Action — Hurting more than helping

The highly watched trial of Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard University has put the policy of Affirmative Action into the spotlight. This policy was first introduced in 1961, by President John Kennedy to secure employment free of discrimination. The policy was later adapted for use in higher education.

Affirmative Action has had a more negative impact than positive due to the more acceptance and lenient rates provided toward minority groups, it created social division, makes favored minorities struggle in positions they are not prepared for, and increased discrimination toward Asian American applicants.

From the Boston Courtroom, it was discovered that in 2013, Harvard conducted an internal investigation in their admissions and found they were biased toward Asian American applicants. Harvard never released their findings to the press.

Data from a 2014 Department of Education investigative study under the Obama administration uncovered communications among admission officers from Princeton showing bias against Asian American applicants.

This investigation’s findings on Princeton’s opinions are similar to many other prestigious schools. Asian American applicants should not be punished for their overachievement and for their families investing their time and effort in their child’s success.

In an Espenshade study in 2005, Chang Chung, a senior staff member in Princeton’s Office of Population Research, examined data from elite colleges to see the outcomes if race and ethnicity factors was removed from the admissions process. It was concluded that without Affirmative Action, Asian American admission rates would rise from 17.6 percent to 23.4 percent.

Now the use of Affirmative Action in Harvard admissions has been accused of being overused to discriminate against one minority group: Asian Americans. It doesn’t change the fact that specific groups are apparently receiving extra levels of special consideration in inequitable ways.

“I think that Harvard discriminating and being illegally biased towards Asian Americans is unacceptable. Everyone works so hard to be able to apply to Harvard with hopes of being accepted. They get the highest GPA possible, or the highest SAT or ACT scores. Colleges consider different aspects of an applicant and race shouldn’t be one. You should never decide someone’s future or limit their capabilities due to their race or where they come from,” Los Altos High School student, Rufina Chow said.

As flawed it can be, it is worse than it was assumed to be. As admissions processes continue to use Affirmative Action, thinking it will create diversity on campus, it relentlessly continues to turn down qualified Asian American applicants — even with their higher grades and test scores. Now Asian Americans only make up 23 percent of admitted students. There is no such thing as diversity at this point.

“Affirmative action is definitely a form of discrimination as people are looking at someone’s race rather than their capabilities. Many are suing Harvard due to inequality. Everyone wants a fair chance as an applicant. I hope the outcome would of course provide a much equal probability for each applicant,” Chow said.

Affirmative Action could be used for good, providing support and opportunity for all, but Harvard has badly hurt Asian American applicants. Harvard and other Ivy Leagues have been shown to be discriminatory against Asian Americans in admissions, such as using racist stereotypes to describe Asians as “robotic automatons,” and rating Asians with low personality ratings. It now creates social division while it angers groups who are not favored.

“I’m honestly offended that Harvard is racially biased when accepting or declining admissions as the world itself is already more accepting and treats people equally. Based off of prior arguments with race, I don’t think this case will be looked upon as top priority, which is wrong as inequality,” Mikayla Lowe, a Los Altos  student said.

This policy seems to support stereotypes and racism. It is offensive to think everyone in a certain race is inferior to such a degree that a policy needs to be implemented granting a level of priority for them over others.  This implies everyone from certain groups are homogeneous — which in reality is never the case. Everyone is a unique individual and controls their own future, not the environments and the situations they face.

Many prestigious schools such as Yale, Stanford, M.I.T., and Emory use Affirmative Action as part of their admissions process to ensure diversity in their income classes and give opportunities to underrepresented students. This theory hopes to level the playing field to all racial groups.

When the policy was put into play for higher education, there must have been good intentions–providing diversity and a chance for every individual — but as it was frequently used, there came unexpected outcomes. This policy should be reviewed, and changes made should involve in equitable admissions.

It is called “reverse discrimination.” The process destroys the idea of being selected by ability as it puts race as the number one factor in admissions. The most qualified people should be given admission, regardless of which race and cultural background they were born into. A person’s abilities and skills should be their defining criteria, but with Affirmative Action these traits effectively take a backseat to a person’s skin color.

This lawsuit’s outcome may determine the future of Affirmative Action in college applications in the future. Affirmative Action is a policy giving preferential treatment toward certain ethnic minorities who were seen to have suffered from discrimination, struggled for employment, and were educationally disadvantaged in the past. This case’s potential long-life span and potential for many court appeals, will give officials time to fully understand both viewpoints of the situation.

“This case is definitely going to last awhile, in my opinion. If there is a lawsuit against Harvard and it is successful, I guarantee that there will be lawsuits against other prestigious universities,” said Tiffany Liao from Yale University. “With college admissions decisions comes blurred lines. I think people are suing Harvard because they don’t quite know the process that each application goes through and some statistics seem to be a bit ‘questionable.’ In essence, there are people who disagree with the system of admissions that is currently in place.”

Affirmation Action’s primary goal, according to its supporters, is to bring a more diverse and equitable group of people into the workplace or incoming university class. However, having people with diverse backgrounds and races does not guarantee there is different diverse thoughts, opinions, and experiences between them. The most qualified people should be put in the positions, regardless of race. It was said Affirmative Action was to level the playing field and help certain races who experienced oppression. If the goal is to level the playing field then perhaps income and not race alone, should be a defining variable.

1 Comment

  • Reply simplyavalon January 21, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    I totally understand where you are coming from and think that the policy could (and should) be refined, but I think the points you highlighted ignore that where you come from (specifically the schools you are zoned for) plays a major role in your ability to succeed and get into schools like the Ivies. Do you think that students who come from traditionally poorer school zones should be left out from getting into these schools because they don’t have the opportunities to get ACT/SAT prep or didn’t have the updated textbooks to get solid scores on APs? What if you were disadvantaged in this way, but still had amazing extracurriculars and reccs? Your intelligence isn’t a sum total of your standardized test scores and schools shouldn’t be punished for picking another candidate who may not have met their mid 50% ACT/SAT range. Affirmative Action attempts to even out the playing field by allowing students like this to get the education they need to beat their circumstances. I don’t want to pick a fight because like I said earlier you made very valid points and I agree that Asian Americans are being discriminated against in the process, but I also can’t say that this policy should be removed because it has helped alleviate other issues like the one I mentioned earlier. I don’t think there will ever be a perfect solution until we are willing to give adequate funding to schools and allow all students to have the same equal shot to get into the schools they’re interested in, but until that moment we probably do need policies like Affirmative Action to even out the playing field. (Although, again I agree with you that the policy should be edited/changed so that instances like at Harvard don’t happen.)


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