Affirmative action has positive effects

The problem has nothing to do with cognitive ability.

Have you ever heard of positive discrimination? How about affirmative action? If you know the definition to one of these, then you know the definition to both, because they are interchangeable. Across the United States, colleges and universities are debating whether to incorporate positive discrimination, or affirmative action, into their admissions programs. Affirmative action is the creation of a more equal society through the promotion of people of traditionally discriminated-against groups.

Adding affirmative action would allow for minorities to have a better chance of getting into a particular school, but what is the overall message of such a move? Is it not enough minorities can get into a college without special consideration of race or gender? If so, why is it so many minorities are not coming to the university level with test scores and GPAs equivalent to their white male counterparts?

The problem has nothing to do with cognitive ability but has everything to do with opportunity. Without adequate resources and preparation at the junior high and high school levels, a person cannot build up their qualifications and can fall short of the standards expected of them at a college level. One example can be found at the University of Chicago, where valedictorians of disadvantaged Chicago schools are said to be unsuccessful during their freshman year of college because they are unprepared for the rigors of the program.

This not only indicates that affirmative action might be more effective in the earlier stages of education, but also that certain standards such as rigor of courses, test scores and preparedness are important marks of whether a student is ready for college. So how does race play a role in whether someone is able to function at a college level?

The University of Michigan does not answer that question, but its Senate Assembly does claim diversity helps its student body gain “intellectual stimulation that can only come from … a broad range of people.” To achieve its diversity, the school’s undergraduate admissions policy issues points for different attributes and qualifications an applicant possesses such as alumni connections, parental education, and – most controversially – race. In its previous system, the University of Michigan would award 20 points to underrepresented minorities, which would be added to their possible 150 point score.

Because of this system, the University of Michigan was sued by a white student who claimed he was being discriminated against. In 2003, the student won the case because the Supreme Court ruled too much weight was being given to race. Since then, Michigan has modified its point system, but still includes race as one of its deciding factors, maintaining that diversity is essential at the university level.

Each university has the right to decide how it wants its student body to be represented. However, when it boosts the chances of certain applicants in order to add more underrepresented minorities to its system, it is tampering with a system that guarantees admission to the students with the most potential for success at that school.

In 2004 at the University of Michigan, only 69.6 percent of underrepresented minorities graduated, while whites graduated at 88.5 percent. While many conclusions can be drawn from this, I believe it shows that Michigan is more concerned about being seen as a diverse university than about ensuring the success and “intellectual stimulation” of the minorities it accepts. And really, without a college diploma to go with that college acceptance letter, what is the point?

Sam Schroeder is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].