The Supreme Court heard arguments last Wednesday in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that is re-examining the issue of race in college admissions and prompting universities to defend their right to consider the race of an applicant in their admissions process.
This case has reopened a national conversation around affirmative action in universities’ admissions process and coincides with the release of a new book, “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It” by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.
This book argues that the universities’ interest in creating a diverse community and practice of using race as a very strong admissions factor has led the most competitive universities to admit students of color, particularly African Americans, who were not academically prepared to be successful there. Due to this, students who would be doing well and excelling at other schools are finding themselves on academic probation, ignored when it comes to applying for national, merit-based scholarships and in worst cases, dropping out.
After reading new research and arguments about affirmative action, I began to wonder how many students of color may have been set up for failure because of this practice.
Does closing the racial gap increase the performance gap between African American and white students?
I see the validity in Sander and Taylor’s point. It has been shown that students of color who were given preference, because of their race, did not perform as well as their white peers. In 2004, examining affirmative action at law schools, Sander wrote a paper with research showing that an extensively lower number of African-American students graduated from law school and passed the bar.
Due to the preference approach, many students of color are placed in classrooms with peers who have had an overwhelmingly stronger academic program before they reach the university setting. In this environment, many of the students struggle to keep up, and they feel disengaged by the teacher. As it is with any race, when you are unhappy with your learning environment, you move on.
I believe in affirmative action, but the universities’ direction is wrong. The benefits of diversity are not only moral and ethical; they are proven empirically to bolster the academic milieu of universities.
Fairness and diversity, affirmative action’s founding principles should go hand in hand considering what has been taking place in college admissions. It is not fair for an unqualified student of color to be admitted into the university when they will not be academically prepared. It will only steer them downhill. Although there should be a small interest in racial preferences, there should also be an extremely strong interest and evaluation of socioeconomic stature because the “diversity” argument is increasingly leaving behind all low-income students.
There is blatant racism in this country, so there still needs to be a preference. However, a student’s performance and promising future should not be sacrificed to achieve a certain percentage.
Deon Jones is a junior in the School of Public Affairs, an advisory neighborhood commissioner representing AU students and a national spokesman for the Campaign for Youth Justice.