In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need affirmative action. But equal access to quality higher education doesn’t naturally happen.
I believe that affirmative action is necessary to have at the college level because of the inequalities in society that affect disadvantaged students in their pursuit of a degree, and affirmative action has helped more students of color get into college.
Disadvantaged students aren’t on equal footing with their peers when applying to college, especially if they’re coming from a poorly funded school district. It isn’t an even playing field when schools in low-income areas don’t have enough sufficiently trained teachers or resources to be at the same learning level as other students.
White people did not go through the societal, economic and political oppression that racial minorities have faced in America.
Remediations for the oppression faced by people of color in the past would be a fair standard to set because many students of color have had to deal with circumstances that have made it harder to get into college. Affirmative action is like a lifeline for those students.
Many Black and Latino students are still underrepresented at elite colleges and universities around the country, according to a New York Times analysis.
In the 1960s, both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson signed executive orders to prevent employment discrimination against women and minorities. At the time, leaders of the civil rights movement knew it was impossible for people to be “color blind” to race — and having no affirmative action would be based on similar illogical expectations.
Since the executive orders, affirmative action has grown to include education.
Affirmative action also extends beyond admissions to provide financial help for students. At Temple, the Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance implements the university’s affirmative action policy, handles discrimination complaints and provides resources on the university’s discrimination policies.
In 1978, the Supreme Court case Regents of University of California v. Bakke ruled that racial quotas in the admission process were unconstitutional, but many critics of affirmative action still inaccurately argue its presence.
Affirmative action admission policies are legal as long as race is one of many factors, and diversity among the student body that benefits students’ educational experience is the ultimate goal.
Heath Fogg Davis, a political science professor, said the standards the Supreme Court has set, like “race as one of many factors,” has been problematic because colleges aren’t getting a lot of guidance.
“I think that affirmative action policies, especially in higher education, should be based on some kind of historical remediations,” Davis said.
The debate over the necessity of affirmative action has often led to the courts or a public vote — eight states in the country have banned it. But some colleges in those states, like University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan, experienced a decrease in admission and enrollment, respectively, for Black students after affirmative action was banned.
Some complaints about affirmative action admission policies have gone all the way to the Supreme Court. And now a federal investigation is being conducted by the Justice Department’s civil rights division, according to the New York Times.
The investigation will look into possibly suing colleges and universities over “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” according to the New York Times. Many people are speculating that the actual purpose is to see if minority groups are getting an unfair advantage over other students.
But that unfair advantage isn’t likely.
In March, the Education Law Center released a report stating that Pennsylvania was short $3 to $4.5 billion in sufficient public school funds and was “shortchanging” schools that really need funding. When a state makes mistakes like this, it further proves that affirmative action needs to be in place at the college level because of years of institutional shortcomings.
Davis said meritocracy — the political philosophy that moving ahead in life relies on an individual’s ability and talent — is the biggest argument against affirmative action. But there are other factors that come into play that shouldn’t be ignored, like socioeconomic status.
Conor Freeley, a junior political science major and president of Temple College Democrats, said affirmative action should be extended during high school years to provide for opportunities, like free SAT tutoring.
But programs like this don’t exist, which is why affirmative action is needed in college.
“You should provide enough opportunities, so that I have the same resume and test scores as somebody else who doesn’t look like me,” said Freeley, who is white.
Not having to include race as a factor in admissions would be ideal, but socioeconomic factors and the current state of our education system make that impossible to do.
It’s a divisive issue, but affirmative action must be in place to remedy racial gaps in higher education. The program may need some improvements, but getting rid of it or attacking its value is a mistake.