Opinion: Affirmative Action is hurting more than helping

Harvard University prevailed in a recent lawsuit accusing it of admissions policies that discriminated against Asians.

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, and 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.

It was discovered that in 2013, Harvard conducted an internal investigation in their admissions and found they were biased toward Asian American applicants, according to Boston Courtroom documents.

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 were 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,” Los Altos High School student, Rufina Chow said. “You should never decide someone’s future or limit their capabilities due to their race or where they come from.”

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, according to the Washington Post.

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 “automatons,” and rating Asians with low personality ratings, according to Vox News. 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 are already more accepting and treat people equally,” Mikayla Lowe, a Los Altos student said. “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,”

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, according to the New York Times.

When the policy was put into play for higher education, there must have been good intentions of 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 inequitable 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 a while, 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.

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 are different diverse thoughts, opinions, and experiences between them.

The most qualified people should be put in 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 thought on “Opinion: Affirmative Action is hurting more than helping

  1. “When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression”. Whether or not Affirmative Action is working as intended is a question that is fair to ask. But I want to be clear that it’s not about assuming any demographic is less capable, only that they are less privileged–and as a result have less access to opportunity. Admissions should consider not only where someone has landed, but how far they have journeyed to get there. If I apply, as a White person, and have “A”s, having grown up middle class, going to good schools, possibly having access to a tutor when I struggled, it cannot be said I’ve done better than someone else, who as a result of their birth, was denied access to decent schools, may have been impacted by more trauma–such as homelessness, gun violence, and a single parent home with less resources and more potential poverty–but ended up somehow graduating and making “C”s and “B”s. I would not say that comparing our final grades is fair. I would not say their grades not being “as good” means they are less capable. I would argue the fact they endured what they did and still came through it intact, and applying to an Ivy League school makes them arguably more deserving and better qualified–more resourceful, more hard working, more resilient.

    The US House of Representatives, after Will Hurd resigns, will have zero Black GOP members. Our country suffers from disgraceful inequality based on race. All one has to do is look at the racial make up of any of our seats of power, control of capitol, and where we assign prestige–to see that some people, based on race, are denied an equal start. Then when they achieve more to end up with less, we say they are robbing the privileged of their rightful, meritorious place. The goal of Affirmative Action is to acknowledge the disadvantage–not in capacity, but in privilege–that exists based on race in this country, and to level the playing field to accommodate by taking away privilege from those who were simply lucky to be born into it.

    Again, if it can be improved, I’m all for it. But I think any effort to make it better needs to start with a realistic grasp of what it’s supposed to accomplish, and why it’s been implemented. And it needs to be paired with a realistic view of how racists many of our metrics are–in that they seem to only take into consideration where someone *is*, and not how hard they worked and what they overcame to get there.

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