The Race to Get Into College: The Impact of Affirmative Action

by Neil Sahu, News Editor

Picture this: You are at your computer, filling out questionnaires from different colleges. You worked very hard throughout your years in high school, and you did all you could to get into a good college for yourself. However, you go to the next question and you see on your screen: “Regardless of your answer to the prior question, please indicate how you identify yourself (select one or more).” You see the options state: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White. I believe that this question should remain optional.

In fact, this situation has been debated very heavily. In 2008, Abigail Fisher was applying to UT Austin and she did not make the cut. Fisher argued that she had so many extracurricular activities and combined with her academic record of a 3.59 GPA and 1180 SAT score, she would have been qualified. But unfortunately, UT Austin used race as a factor to select the remainder of its 2008 freshman class which alleged violation of the 14th amendment. The fact that a student had such great extracurricular activities to make up for academic weaknesses, and still didn’t get into a great college like UT Austin is quite crazy considering that her peers had very similar stats, but the only difference was the color of their skins (she was white while her peers were of different ethnicities). Imagine finding out somehow that someone else who had the same statistics as you, they got into your dream school over you, and all because they had a different skin color than you. Personally, if it were me in Fisher’s shoes, I wouldn’t be too happy finding out that a college rejected me because of my race.

Affirmative action is a set of policies and procedures meant to counteract discrimination and promote diversity in educational institutions. A majority of Americans (73%) believe that race and ethnicity should not be considered in college admissions decisions, according to the Pew Research Center.

Supporters of this have argued that discontinuing affirmative action policies would threaten universities and underrepresented minorities, while people against affirmative action see it as a threat to White access to resources, American values, and society as a whole.

There is currently a legal case ongoing between Harvard University and The Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) over the use of affirmative action in college admissions. The SFFA, led by Edward Blum, filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014 to challenge the legality of considering race as a factor in admissions decisions. Harvard denies these allegations and argues that the SFFA’s use of data is flawed. The case brings attention to the issue of affirmative action and aims to make college admissions more fair. It’s good that the SFFA is trying to make a change because it sheds light on the issue of affirmative action and it attempts to try and make college admissions more fair.

Though this case is complex, I believe that College admissions should keep the race question optional. Unless race impacts an applicant in some way, its only importance is to promote diversity on campus. Colleges today have a pretty decent ratio of their admission statistics based on ethnicity, and it is available to the public. While promoting diversity on campus Is important, ethnicity should not be a key factor in determining your application.