Affirmative Action | Gabriella Patino
by Gabriella Patino
When asked what the college admissions process looks like, a typical high school senior would give one of many different answers. For example, they may picture a group of robots sitting around a table, reading stacks of papers, judging people by numbers and facts. All of our hard work over four years shows up in one tab on our computers before we drag our finger to the dreaded submit button. There is no doubt that this process is nerve-racking. After that, the waiting begins, and we pray that we said just the right thing to get us into that one school. When results start rolling in, so does the blame game. As a student body, we credit each other’s successes to a short list of things, among which are perfect test scores, the number of clubs they started, or, my personal least favorite, affirmative action.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national graduation rates by ethnicity in the year 2014-15 were as follows: American Indians—72%, African Americans—75%, Hispanic—78%, White—88%, Asian/Pacific Islander—90%. These percentages suggest that certain groups groups are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to others in our country. The National Conference of State Legislatures states that it’s important to remember “affirmative action is more of a process than just an admissions policy.” This means affirmative action also puts outreach programs in place to encourage those graduating minority percentages to apply to college. Then, once the students attend college, they receive financial benefits and support programs on campus, encouraging them to succeed.
Affirmative action was originally meant to compensate for years of racial oppression that led to social and economic inequalities. In 1965, when only a small percentage of graduating students from undergraduate universities, law schools, and medical schools were from a minority group, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an executive order that required race to be taken into account when employing those minorities. Soon, colleges and universities adopted the concept as well and started looking at race when considering admission. It brought more diversity to campuses across the country, and colleges thought students had better opportunity for social development.
Those without the economic disadvantage are still receiving the benefits of affirmative action. David Sacks and Peter Thiel, famous entrepreneurs and writers on the Stanford Alumni online magazine, point out, “If ‘diversity’ were really the goal, then preferences would be given on the basis of unusual characteristics, not on the basis of race.” This points out the fact that skin tone doesn’t define who we are as people. Economic, geographic, and social differences in each individual’s life are what make them diverse and shine through in their application to really show colleges what students are going to bring to the campus.
In 1998, when California abolished affirmative action, minority representation fell 61% at UC Berkeley and 36% at UCLA. Statistically, affirmative action has helped minority groups. This drop in representation was under circumstances in which admission was solely based on academic achievement. These numbers confirm that with affirmative action in place, race is a big factor in the college admissions process. 19 years later, affirmative action is still in the headlines as the Trump administration takes a closer look at cases against Harvard University. A group of anti-affirmative action Asian-Americans feels like they are being unjustly held to higher standards compared to other minority groups. Research from the National Association for College Admission Counseling has shown that Asian-Americans score higher on standardized tests than other races. The students have the scores, so counselors focus on making the applications as unique as possible in other regards. One college counselor as even gone so far as to say he’s encouraging kids to “appear less [Asian].” Brian Taylor, the director of a college counseling company by the name of Ivy Coach, explains this phenomenon. “While it is controversial, this is what we do,’’ he says. “We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.” This mindset is a result of the competition for a spot with a disproportionate amount of applicants compared to other groups.
The case against affirmative action is a strong one. Perhaps with the progressive culture and opportunity in this country, a new system is turning the corner. As people continue to speak their minds on the subject, friction is created and change can’t be long to follow.