All in all, it’s good affirmative action is gone from college admissions

September 29, 2023 — by Zack Zhang
Graphic by Leyna Chan
Both sides for and against affirmative action hold valid arguments, adding onto the complexity of finding a balance in between. 

The Supreme Court ruled against the use of race in college admissions nationwide in June, yet some colleges made clear that they will prioritize admitting historically underrepresented groups.

First established as an executive order by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as a response to the civil rights movement, the policy of affirmative action intended to solve the under-representation of racial minorities and promote equal opportunities in admission to higher education and other arenas. 

However, in recent years, the college admission process took the racial-diversity factor to an unreasonable level. This ultimately led the Supreme Court this past summer to rule that the race-aware admissions programs used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause, effectively ending the affirmative action in admissions.

The court was right to rule as it did.

Overemphasizing race as a single factor undermines the hard work of the well-qualified students and ends up damaging society by perpetuating unfairness overall. 

According to Gitnux Blog, the racial composition of Harvard University was 39.6% white, 27.5% Asian, 10.8% Hispanic, 9.3% African American, 2.2% Native American and 10.6% mixed-race as of fall 2020. Many on the equity side use this piece of information as evidence to argue that even with affirmative action, the Black and Hispanic populations combined is still much smaller than the Asian and white populations at elite colleges. 

But my response is that is anyone really at fault? We forget the other side of the story on whether we should have affirmative action — equality. 

It is common sense that people earn rewards proportional to the time and work they put into them. You should get into elite colleges after spending days and nights working hard to achieve the needed grades and test scores. No other factors should matter as much as an applicant’s academic readiness.

The presence of affirmative action unintentionally undermines the American ideal of success based on merit. Students who have worked extra hours in academics and participated in extracurriculars to improve their strengths and better their chance into their dream colleges have seen their efforts not rewarded for too long because affirmative action policies

Clearly low-income families cannot afford as many expenses in academics or extracurriculars as wealthy ones, but penalizing the most qualified students only perpetuates unfairness. 

Shouldn’t the solution try to solve the root of the problem — the lack of education resources for underserved communities? 

To me, the act limiting the chances of success certain people can have is unjustifiable and damaging to society. Will young people, no matter what race, keep working hard if they know that when they have reached so close to their dreams, they will be kept out of the gate to their dream institution only because someone took their spot because of a racial preference? 

I believe this wasn’t Kennedy’s original intention when he introduced affirmative action in the ‘60s. The policy was meant to bring about concrete hope for racial minorities who were rejected merely because of their skin colors but not the level of their achievements. It was only until the late 2000s that people started to falsely interpret the act and deviate it from its premise that no one’s interest should be damaged in the process. 

I appreciate that many colleges have realized the flaws in basing the admission process solely on race and have instead started to accommodate based on the students’ social or economic class. The socioeconomic-based consideration covers more factors than stereotypically assuming one race has overall less access to educational resources. Benefiting or diminishing individuals just based on their skin color is exactly the definition of racism. 

Justice and fairness for both ends in the admission process is the eventual goal in our society, and no individuals should be damaged in the process. Our society needs to fight for a better way to address long-standing issues such as educational inequality at the K-12 level. Until then, a policy that emphasizes race over other factors in admissions is inherently flawed. 

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