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Affirmative Action: Pro & Con


I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by Asian Americans, and I suspect when I eventually graduate high school and go to college, I will continue to be surrounded by more Asian Americans. And while it’s great that I can be around people that share and relate with my experiences, meeting students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and hearing about their unique experiences is an amazing learning and growing opportunity. So we can all agree that diversity is important, and the lack of it on college campuses is concerning. Ultimately, the question lies not in should we raise diversity, but how we do so. Affirmative action has emerged as the most recent solution to this problem. Although it has the best intentions, ultimately, affirmative action is counterintuitive and doesn’t solve the root issue of the lack of racial diversity on campus.

Affirmative action can be summed up in this oxymoron: “positive discrimination.” On the bright side, affirmative action policies show that the government is addressing the issue of the lack of diversity and is taking action, but inherently, it is still discrimination. Different races are held to different standards: a study by Princeton University in 2009 has shown that Ivy League schools require Asian people to score 140 points higher on the old Standardized Test (SAT) than white people, 320 points higher than Hispanic people, and 450 points higher than black people to be admitted.

Benefiting one group should not come at the cost of hurting another. Setting higher standards for Asian people is counterintuitive and goes against the whole premise of promoting equality. It is undeniable that Hispanic people and black people make up a very small percent of college students, 22 percent and 15 percent respectively, and that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. The current policies in place have good intentions, but in actuality, they are fighting discrimination with discrimination.

While these policies do increase diversity, they do not resolve the root cause of the lack of diversity. The root cause of the issue seems to lie within the lack of equal opportunity and resources for certain races as a result of their socioeconomic status.

The unfortunate reality is that race and socioeconomic status may go hand-in-hand. According to the 2013 U.S. Census, the highest national poverty rates were for Hispanic people and Latino people at 26.3 percent and black people at 25.8 percent. Students living in households that struggle to even have food on the table clearly cannot afford SAT preparatory classes and are not able to dedicate more time to education. Additionally, the quality of public education in lower-income cities prepares students far less sufficiently than schools in higher income cities.

Ultimately, a meritocratic admission basis is the most fair system for college acceptance, but we must take into account the varying circumstances of students of different races. If we want to fully embrace the fairest system of admission, we need to address the lack of equal opportunity for students of different races and socioeconomic status. We must first examine the wealth disparity between different races before we can go on to resolve the issue of race and education. Affirmative action is a step in the right direction, but we’re a long way from finding a long term solution to the issue of the lack of racial diversity in higher education.

By Natalie Jiang, Opinion editor

Editorial cartoon by Natalie Jiang

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