Although the Supreme Court has deemed affirmative action for universities unconstitutional, many still believe that minorities are given top priority by the admissions committee. As Dan Lu ‘20 notes, “The more of a single race a college has, the less likely they are to admit more of those people.”
In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court concluded that affirmative action was beneficial in leveling the playing field for all applicants. The Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) further emphasized that, while quotas were illegal, allowing race to be a factor in the admissions process was not. Colleges strive to uphold diversity in their populations, but the difference between selecting for equality and tending towards special attention is hazy.
Of course, having a student pool of diverse young adults supports tolerance and embraces new ideas and global cooperation. Bringing different cultural beliefs and backgrounds together and allowing them to flourish as college student organizations and societies makes learning and creating much more colorful and meaningful. In light of the recent political and social climate, it is evermore imperative that each generation of college students understands the importance of diversity.
However, the value of hard work must not diminish in this process. Take into consideration those who diligently serve the community and sacrifice leisurely summers for internships and research programs, yet admissions officers stamp them as part of the majority. Factoring race and gender into the admissions process is grossly unfair. Due to the growth of the number of women in STEM fields, Sneha Hariharan ‘19 claims that “the admissions process definitely should not be based on race or gender… There are different measures of intelligence.”
Indeed, anyone who puts in true effort and time, no matter their background or identity, should be recognized for their labor. However, there are those students that, despite their stellar academic record, never make it to an Ivy League school. Are there different standards of qualification for, say, Asian and Caucasian students? This issue brings us back to the disheartening fact that some races, traditionally seen as disadvantaged, do not have the resources that wealthier students may have to empower themselves. Bridging this gap is what admissions officers aim to accomplish.
But instead of trying to rectify this issue so late in the educational system, we should start at the roots. Ensuring equal resources for all elementary school students will provide them with a strong foundation of skills to help them excel in high school and beyond. Many educators have already taken matters into their own hands; charter schools in urban areas such as Newark give traditionally disadvantaged students the resources to learn and grow more effectively.
Trying to fulfill specific quotas or ratios of races and gender identities only intensifies resentment between people of differing backgrounds. Although it is still necessary to have a diversified, eager group of students in each university, ensuring that each applicant is a motivated, ambitious leader is of the utmost importance to increase chances of future success. In the aftermath of the recent election, the Trump administration suggested eliminating affirmative action policies to maintain racial impartiality.
But I’d say we should create an even starting line for everyone to begin learning at first, and then the most driven students will flourish, no matter their race or background.