A firm stance against affirmative action

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Cartoon courtesy of Catherine Lin

Affirmative action seems to function as a double-edged sword for the modern public education system, as it has recently come under fire for deterring Asian American students’ acceptance into universities, but has been statistically been proven to promote racial diversity and opportunity to those who struggle to afford college. The backlash in recent years has come as a result of the growth of the country’s population of Asian American students.

A product of the civil rights movement, the Johnson administration created affirmative action in order to provide job and educational opportunities for minorities that would counteract the effects of racial segregation and discrimination, which had left them with generally much lower incomes than those of white families.

These policies adopted by public colleges have been proven to promote racial diversity. According to reports from the National Center on Education Statistics, the university enrollment of African-American high school graduates rose from 56 percent in 2007 to 65 percent in 2011 – a nine percent increase in only four years. It was during this four year period that affirmative action was further implemented throughout the country.

The effects can also be seen on individual college admissions. According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, when California abolished its affirmative action programs in 1998, minority admissions to UC Berkeley and UCLA fell 61 percent and 36 percent, respectively. These policies are undeniably doing some good, but now that affirmative action is 60 years old, it is impossible to know if these benefits are necessary, as a well-off Latino or African-American is not as much of an oddity as it was before, causing the benefits to go to someone who does not need it.

The growth of the Asian American population in the last decade, however, has brought to light further flaws of affirmative action programs. According to a study held this year by Princeton University that utilized SAT scores as a benchmark to measure the effects of affirmative action, Asian American students were penalized by approximately 50 points by application reviewers, while other minority groups were granted between 185 to 230 “bonus points.”

The fact of the matter is that Asian Americans are no longer a minority group to public universities. In California, where the population growth of Asian Americans is the fastest, they make up more than 50 percent of undergraduate students at schools like UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCI.

Affirmative action as a whole seems to be archaic. It is likely benefitting those who do not need it while undermining academic achievement, going against the principles of opportunity and individual liberty the Johnson administration fought for in the beginning.

It is time for a revamp to the affirmative action program throughout the United States all together. The fact that some students are penalized for the academic performance of both themselves and other students in their racial group sacrifices the integrity and merit of academic achievement and success. The fact that race is still used as a factor in college admissions may in fact point to a racial divide that those who conceived the program fought against. Perhaps if the United States were to adopt a new program that gave more opportunities based on yearly income, the country would be able to provide opportunity to those who need it the most as affirmative action was originally conceived to do.