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Robert J. Boone III

Capt. Lovrak


29 Nov. 00

Affirmative Action Now

The purpose behind affirmative action programs during the admissions process of universities is to promote equal opportunity, and to further desegregate our educational system. Those who do not promote affirmative action feel that these programs instill reverse discrimination, as well as segregation in the universities. They believe that these special programs lower the test scores of prestigious universities while also setting up minorities to fail in the real world. Groups against affirmative action feel that the need for these programs have over grown their usefulness, because of the changing times in which we live in. On the contrary because of past discrimination and segregation affirmative action programs are needed during the admissions process of universities and colleges.

Opponents of affirmative action believe that use of affirmative action programs in the admissions process promotes reverse discrimination, and segregation, which goes against the initial intent of these special programs. They feel that these programs discriminate against non-minorities who cannot be accepted into universities, because of affirmative action. These programs go against the meaning of civil rights, which is to treat all individuals the same under the law regardless of race, religion, sex, or other such social categories (Beckwith 143).

One of the main arguments made by anti-affirmative action groups is that the use of these special programs will lower academic scores in many universities. Because minorities are accepted into universities with lower entrance exams scores opponents believe that minorities will not succeed in these universities, setting them up to fail in college, thus lowering the university’s testing scores. Due to the academic failures at universities opponents also believe that minorities are also being set up to fail in life as well.

Finally those opponents against affirmative action believe that because discrimination and segregation in universities has changed for the best over the past thirty year the need for affirmative action programs are gone. They feel that these special programs have out lived their usefulness, and are no longer needed in the admissions process. Their continued use will only segregate universities toward the minority side over time.

Anti-affirmative action groups have presented many reasons for doing away with affirmative action programs. These reasons include reverse discrimination and segregation, lower academic score, and the unnecessary need for affirmative action. Although the arguments that have been stated by these anti-affirmative action groups are valid in some cases, the benefits of affirmative action still carry more weight.

Without clear, concise laws, the main purpose behind affirmative action, which is to rectify the injustices of the past via special policies, has been lost or misconstrued. While many people try to change the meaning of these special programs with such words as “preferences” or “reverse discrimination”, affirmative action is taking positive steps to help minorities expand access to education. Affirmative action is a program created to promote equal opportuntity, and to battle negative attitudes such as prejudice, which is discrimination based on irrelevant grounds. These prejudices can lead towards prejudial discrimination, which, because of those irrelevant grounds, someone is denied a fair deal (Beckwith). Because affirmative action is paradoxically race-conscious, it uses race to bring about a society which is not race conscious or colorblind (Beckwith). One of the reasons affirmatve action was created was to reverse hundreds of years of discrimination against minorities and women by giving them better educational opportunities (Affirmative Action). For many decades in American society, minorities and women have suffered considerable disadvantages in education and employment; affirmative action simply attempts to extend equal opportunity to all Americans (Affirmative Action).

Without affirmative action we further jeopardize the idea of equal education, as minority students are discouraged from applying to schools that they feel are out of their reach. These drops in admissions can be seen in many prestigious universities such as the University of Texas Law school, which saw a 42% drop in black applicants, as well as a 14% drop in Hispanic applicants (What..). Applications from underrepresented students at the University of California medical schools plummeted 21.5% from 1996 to 1997 (What..). A notable drop in applications was also seen at the Berkely School of Law. Even though Berkely did receive a one point increase in LSAT testing, this one point came at the cost of a 76% drop in admissions of African Americans and a 46% drop in admissions of Chicanos and Latinos (What..). Dr. Michael Drake, Associate Dean of Admissions at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, said that “ If you look at that drop [in minority applications] from 722 to 493, that has never happened in our history” (What..). These drops in admissions are further resegregating schools at the university level. This trend toward resegregation has elicited concern from opponents and supporters of affirmative action alike.

Even Ward Connerly, who fought for bans on affirmative action that outlaw programs geared to minorities, stated that some outreach programs focusing on minority communities might be necessary because there is a “problem among blacks” (What..). According to Lee Bollinger, who is the President of the University of Michigan,

“[Anti-affirmative action] lawsuits threaten the ability of the University to bring together students from a wide array of backgrounds to create the richest possible environment for education and learning. We cannot let the University of Michigan be thwarted from playing a leadership role – as we believe a leading public university must – in building a tolerant and integrated society,”. (What..)

One of the main arguments made by anti-affirmative action groups is that the use of these special programs will lower the academic scores in many universities. While affirmative action has radically changed the student body, race wise, it has not decreased the academic caliber of admitted students (What..). At the Berkeley School of Law, since the elimination of affirmative action the average grade point average of those admitted rose only two one hundredths of a percent — from 3.72 to 3.74 (What..). The Berkeley School of Law Admissions stated that without affirmative action the student average on the LSAT in 1966 only was raised one point.

Other opponents of affirmative action feel that those minorities who have gained admission with lower test scores through these special programs are being cheated and set up to fail by entering prestigious liberal arts colleges such as Yale and Princeton with lower test grades. This concept has been disproven time and again over the past 30 years. According to former Ivy League presidents, William Bowen of Princeton University, an economist, and Derek Bok of Harvard University, a political scientist, blacks who enter these institutions with lower test scores achieve notable success after graduation (Bok). They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates. They are even slightly more likely than whites

from the same institutions to obtain professional degrees in law,

business, and medicine. They also become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities (Bowen).

Many “nay” sayers of affirmative action feel that this program has served its purpose and needs to be phased out of the admissions process. Even thought discrmination is not as overt as it was 30 years ago, higher education is still out of reach for many people of color. This can explain why only 18 percent of college students in the United States are African American, Latino or Native American (Affirmative Action).

In conclusion the use of affirmative action programs is not to promote reverse discrimination, lower testing scores, or set minorities up to fail. On the contrary these special programs are needed to further racially equalize the educational system, and have been proven to not lower universities academic test scores. Affirmative action programs do not set minorities up to fail whether it is at the university or in life. Even though times have changes for better for equality, the need for these special programs in the admissions process are still greatly need for the admission numbers are still far from equal. Affirmative action programs must, and still be used in order to promote equality and to give all races an equal opportunity at an education.

Affirmative Action on Campus. American Civil Liberties Union. 10 December 2000 .

Beckwith, Francis J, and Todd E. Jones. Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1977.

Bowen, William G., and Derek Bok. The Shoe of the River: Long-Term Consequences Of Considering Race In College And University Admissions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998


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