Background Info & Personal Interest
To learn more about my personal interest and for more background on affirmative action, read my Personal Interest Essay.
Brief History of Affirmative Action
While there have undoubtedly been many attempts to correct the disadvantage of minority applicants throughout history, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s brought attention to racial injustice. Ultimately, this sparked colleges to “take prompt steps to break down entrenched patterns of racial exclusion they had come to find unconscionable”, implementing affirmative action policies (Stulberg and Chen). However, throughout history, different colleges have implemented affirmative action in many different ways. In addition, the Supreme Court has largely set the precedent for what affirmative action policies should and should not be allowed, as “there are no explicit federal policies regarding affirmative action in university admissions” (Kramer; Holzer and Neumark). Cases such as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Gratz v. Bollinger, Grutter v. Bollinger, and Fisher v. University of Texas were all very influential on the nature of affirmative action as a whole. Ever since its creation, affirmative action has been a highly divisive and debated issue.
To learn more about the history of Affirmative Action, read my History of the Problem essay.
While affirmative action policies have been implemented in a wide variety of ways, a perfect solution has yet to be found; affirmative action remains a highly controversial topic. The debate surrounding affirmative action is very complex, but below is a chart highlighting the basic benefits and pitfalls of affirmative action.
|Increases diversity, which is beneficial to all students on campuses; studies have shown that diversity in a college setting is beneficial to decrease racial bias and improve communication and leadership skills (Matthew; Crosby, et al).||Disproportionally discriminates against Asian-Americans in the admissions process, despite the fact that Asian-Americans are a historically oppressed group (Balingit).|
|Counteracts the societal discrimination racial minorities such as African-Americans face.||In its very nature, affirmative action perpetuates stereotypes that people of color need “special help” to succeed.|
Class-Based Affirmative Action
To try to address these controversies and pitfalls highlighted above, some colleges have implemented class-based affirmative action. Essentially, class-based affirmative action disregards race in the admissions process and instead focuses on the socioeconomic class of applicants (Malamud). The theory behind class-based affirmative action is as such: because people of color are disproportionately economically disadvantaged, accounting for class in the admissions process would account for race-based discrimination as well as class-based discrimination (Malamud). However, in practice when implemented, these policies also have major pitfalls. As highlighted in Malamud, it is often difficult to characterize different levels of “economic disadvantage” making it difficult to provide more opportunities. Furthermore, many colleges found that racial discrimination still occurs when merely looking at the class of applicants, due to systemic bias (Malamud).
OVERALL: While they do help to correct societal disadvantage, affirmative action policies are imperfect solutions to create equal opportunity.
Completely abolishing affirmative action policies would be counterproductive; affirmative action still contributes to the end goal of equal opportunity in college admissions by increasing diversity as well as decreasing discrimination against less wealthy applicants. ——— As evidence of this, in 1996, California banned all affirmative action in Proposition 209, admission rates of Black and Hispanic students fell by 30–50% and minority representation declined (Card, Krueger). Completely banning affirmative action is NOT the solution.
Class-based affirmative action can be used in conjunction with race-based affirmative action to help lessen race-related controversies currently associated with race-based affirmative action. Affirmative action as a whole should also be implemented alongside other anti-discrimination policies to further aid the goal of equal opportunity in college admissions.
One example of anti-discrimination policies are name-blind policies. Essentially, when looking at an applicant’s credentials, their name is removed, creating a more anonymous hiring system (Rinne). This is beneficial because it helps to combat discrimination; this policy has been shown to result in higher rates of women and minorities being hired (Rinne). When implemented in college admissions, while policies such as these would not eliminate discrimination altogether, they could certainly help to create a more “level playing field”.
In the end, many different types of policies being implemented together on a societal level is a much more robust and effective solution to work towards equitable systems in college admissions.
To learn more about the current problem and my proposed solution(s), read my Current Problem/Solution essay.
What can you do?
- Have discussions about affirmative action & equal opportunity! Comment your thoughts on this topic below, or talk to friends/family.
- Raise awareness & donate to organizations working to solve the problem! For example, the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity (AAAED) is an organization working to “promote understanding and advocacy of affirmative action and other equal opportunity and related compliance laws” (“About the American Association”). You can donate to their cause through this link.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, reflect on your own personal biases against historically disadvantaged groups & work to correct them.
If everyone works to identify and correct their own individual biases on a daily basis, discrimination can be lessened, and equal opportunity policies will not even be needed.
Thank you so much for visiting my website! I hope that you were able to learn something about affirmative action & equal opportunity in college admissions. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on my project in the comments section- I would love to hear any opinions/ideas you have, as well as any constructive feedback for my project in general. Thank you so much again!
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