Affirmative action decreases racial divide in colleges

George Lefkowicz, News Section Editor

The battle over higher education is a horse race unlike any other. Colleges and Universities simultaneously hold the hopes and dreams of teenagers while causing a divide in society. This only increased as a Harvard University was sued over their use of race in college admissions in a blatant attack on affirmative action practices that are essential for higher education to exist as we know it.

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education that racial discrimination within education was unconstitutional. This was a critical decision and a large step forward for civil rights in the U.S. but in no way solved all prejudice in education.

In order to combat discrimination, schools, particularly colleges, began using a technique known as affirmative action to promote diversity and, in a way, make up for past grievances they may have committed.

Racial quotas and other less direct methods have been used by institutions of higher education to promote diversity. Recently, the notion of Affirmative Action has come under fire as the group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) has sued Harvard University, citing discrimination against Asian applicants and pressing for the removal of race in college admissions.

This lawsuit and attack on Affirmative Action can have drastic implications in various spheres of everyday American life.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of racial quotas in the admissions process in a move against affirmative action. This allowed one to argue that the use of affirmative action and race in admissions violated the equal protection clause in the constitution.

However, race and ethnicity, along with other factors, should be used in college admissions, not to put unworthy students in, but to address inequity for the benefit of society.

The University of California at Berkeley found that an increase in school diversity was followed by a jump in academic performance, life expectancy, and income, not only for minority students but for the overall student population as a whole.

If ethnicity is taken out as a factor for college admissions, it will have drastic implications with stifling repercussions. Just take a look at Caltech, which only looks at test scores for admissions, and in 2016, had an undergraduate class size of 961 with only 14 black students.

Because primary education in America remains extremely segregated, minority students are often put at a disadvantage in terms of resources, making affirmative action so important. Due to this discrimination, minority students simply don’t have resources like private tutoring that boost test scores.

Even if the plaintiffs win their lawsuit against Harvard College (the university’s undergraduate liberal arts school), I predict that they will not exactly be pleased by the eventual, and long-term outcome, due to one primary reason: legacy admissions.

When Harvard released its admissions tactics, it was discovered that if an applicant’s parent attended the college, their chance of getting in jumped from about 6 percent to around 33 percent.

This only solidifies the necessity that affirmative action must be a tool used in college admissions. It is the last wall between already selective schools that are strikingly non-diverse and a student body consisting of wealthy kids whose parents happened to get in.

All of this together makes affirmative action so important. Due to institutional segregation in schools, minority students are put at a stifling disadvantage in education. The end of affirmative action would be socially detrimental and create a larger wealth gap in college.