Affirmative action discriminates against minorities in colleges

Harvard cannot racially discriminate to end racial disparity.

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Affirmative action discriminates against minorities in colleges

Asian Americans protest implementing affirmative action processes at Harvard University, as unfair standards discriminate against minorities.

Asian Americans protest implementing affirmative action processes at Harvard University, as unfair standards discriminate against minorities.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Asian Americans protest implementing affirmative action processes at Harvard University, as unfair standards discriminate against minorities.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Asian Americans protest implementing affirmative action processes at Harvard University, as unfair standards discriminate against minorities.

Marc DeJager, Staff Writer

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(This story was originally published in print on Oct. 17, 2019).

One year ago, Harvard University was sued. Students for Fair Admissions, a group representing Asian American college hopefuls, brought the suit in response to discrimination on the part of Harvard against Americans of Asian descent. 

According to Time magazine, Asian American applicants to Harvard have the highest average SAT scores but the lowest acceptance rate than any other race. The justification given by Harvard’s lawyers is that without careful vetting and consideration of all applicant’s races, Harvard would experience a significant lack of diversity.  

This is a perfect example of the ends justifying the means. In the effort to maintain an ethnically diverse student body, Harvard commits the self-same sin as segregated schools in the ‘50s. In the name of diversity, Harvard found a way to justify racial discrimination. 

THE JUSTIFICATION 

According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans make up just 5% of public school students, but nearly 25% of new students at Harvard. This statistic is flawed, however, because it does not take into account private, charter or homeschool Asian American students, only public high school students. 

To combat this perceived imbalance, Harvard took on a new aspect to their admissions process called “personal rating,” or “holistic admissions process.” This score is determined by entirely subjective metrics, such as essay, personality, interview and perceived likelihood to be a “dynamic presence on campus.” This process amounts to Harvard manipulating its admissions process to make it harder for Asian Americans and make it easier for other non-white ethnic groups. 

THE INTENTION

Let me be clear, Harvard’s heart is in the right place. Though it is basically true that race is a social construct made up during Colonial times by European settlers as a justification for their brutal treatment of natives, the fact still remains that a racially diverse group will inevitably also be culturally diverse. Race does not have to be tied to culture, and it often is not at all, but as of today in America, the two still often go hand in hand. 

All of this is to say that a diverse student body is objectively good because many different students from many different cultural backgrounds can work together to produce a greatly enriched student body. Harvard is trying to do the right thing, but they are going about it in the wrong way.  

Instead of admitting students who are most equipped to succeed—or students who actually do have the most diverse of ethnic backgrounds—Harvard has fallen into simply checking diversity boxes without actually considering the stories and situations of the people they are admitting. To Harvard, and to many higher education institutions, the race quota is just another bar to be met so they can maintain public funding. 

THE DISCRIMINATION 

Raising the bar for some races and lowering it for others is not the answer to disproportionate racial representation in higher education. It is unfair for students held to a higher standard, and condescending to those who are given a lower standard. How arrogant has white America become that we think other races need our help to succeed? 

Removing barriers of entry is one thing—and we must always be vigilant in watching for these barriers—but it is quite another to micromanage the levels of every conceivable racial, cultural, sexually-oriented and religious group in every public institution according to our own subjective notions of what we currently think is fair and just. 

In the 1950s, during the height of Jim Crow discrimination, the advocates of that supremely unjust law were convinced that what they were doing was fair and just. In their mind, fairness and justice meant whatever was better for the white race—the race they viewed as inherently superior to all others. We, of course, know now that this was and still is wrong, but we must be careful not to fall into the same trap of the ends justifying the means. 

Diversity in college is a good thing, but instead of manipulating the admissions process, colleges should invest in better preparatory programs in public high schools to combat racial disparity. If they continue to discriminate based off race in the name of fairness, what means cannot be justified in the name of this good end?