Is Affirmative Action Benefiting Whites at Elite Universities?

by

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


At the core of the American idea lies the promise of equal opportunity, and from this principle flows the rule of law and its equal enforcement, the First Amendment, and the basic contours of most Americans’ economic philosophy. This American promise is fundamentally conservative.

The Trump administration’s decision to consider racial bias in college admissions is a positive move, setting aside questions on how the matter is being addressed or approached.

A multitude of facts point to affirmative action as a failed policy, but perhaps the most damning evidence comes from California, which banned affirmative action in the 1990s.

According to a piece from The Atlantic:

A powerful example of these problems comes from UCLA, an elite school that utilized racial preferences until the Proposition 209 ban took effect in 1998. The anticipated, devastating effects of the ban on racial preferences at UCLA and Berkeley on minorities were among the chief exhibits of those who attacked Proposition 209 as a racist measure. Many predicted that over time blacks and Hispanics would virtually disappear from the UCLA campus.

There was indeed a post-209 drop in minority enrollment as racial preferences were phased out. Although it was smaller and more short-lived than anticipated, it was still quite substantial: a 50 percent drop in black freshman enrollment and a 25 percent drop for Hispanics. These drops precipitated ongoing protests by students and continual hand-wringing by administrators, and when, in 2006, there was a particularly low yield of black freshmen, the campus was roiled with agitation, so much so that the university re-instituted covert, illegal racial preferences.

Throughout these crises, university administrators constantly fed agitation against the preference ban by emphasizing the drop in undergraduate minority admissions. Never did the university point out one overwhelming fact: The total number of black and Hispanic students receiving bachelor’s degrees were the same for the five classes after Prop 209 as for the five classes before. (Emphasis in the original.)

The Atlantic piece is derived from Richard H. Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s book Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.

Affirmative action has succeeded, in the name of diversity, in enrolling students who are unsuited for certain universities, and thus it leads to artificial inflation of the number of underrepresented minorities. However, these students are unqualified and inevitably drop out, are saddled with enormous debt and have no degree to show for it.

The flipside, of course, is that there are a great many students who are qualified for those universities who are never accepted and forced to go to lower quality schools, where perhaps their talents and potential is not cultivated in full.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that affirmative action may potentially be helping white applicants in selective universities at the expense of competent minorities.

Proponents of affirmative action, of course, have unwittingly given away this truth. In this gem published on Vox on June 23, the author performs incredible mental gymnastics to argue: “Asian-American applicants also challenge the colorblind meritocracy myth. According to a sociological study in 2009, white applicants were three times more likely to be admitted to selective schools than Asian applicants with the exact same academic record.” Indeed, the reason Asian Americans are cheated out of these schools is precisely because of affirmative action. One extraordinary example can be found by looking at the top two technical schools in the United States: California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. CalTech does not use affirmative action, whereas MIT does. The demographic breakdown for both:

CalTech MIT
Asian 42% 33%
White 29% 48%

 

Both universities are at the top of their category, and thus have applicant pools that are national and international in size, instead of simply relying on the local population.

Then there is the matter that at other selective universities like Harvard, an Asian-American student must outscore an African-American by five hundred points and a white American by 140 points on the SAT in order have identical odds of acceptance. Should affirmative action be outlawed, it therefore appears that in elite universities, Asian-Americans will constitute a plurality, if not an outright majority in future years, followed by a smaller number of whites and a small fraction with an assortment of other racial minorities.

This raises the question: is affirmative action helping whites in elite universities by artificially depressing the number of Asian-Americans? By this point it has become abundantly clear the social justice movement will pretend Asian-Americans do not exist in order to reinforce their narrative that America is an irredeemably white supremacist culture.

Surely, the social justice movement will come to its senses when confronted with the fact that a racial minority group is being hurt by affirmative action? Doubtful.

It would also be a mistake to tie affirmative action to income levels. Whether or not people have stratified along income levels and general intelligence is perhaps an open question, but whether or not Charles Murray’s cognitive elites exist, a truly meritocratic system would not privilege any group over another, but consider only the raw ability of the individual.

A responsible solution would be to rely more on standardized tests, which were originally created to level the playing field anyway, and respect the outcome. Equal opportunity, not socially engineered equal outcomes ought to be the goal.

In most of the twentieth century Fairooz Adams would have been a Rockefeller Republican. Adams was first drawn to politics because of his fascination with how things work and belief that politics is what drives civilization. Adams is a patriot, pragmatist, and unapologetically proud of America. Beyond Lone Conservative, Adams is involved in a multitude of organizations, including serving on the leadership of and writing for The American Moderate. Adams is the lone centrist on Lone Conservative.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


Share This

About Fairooz Adams

Southern Methodist University

In most of the twentieth century Fairooz Adams would have been a Rockefeller Republican. Adams was first drawn to politics because of his fascination with how things work and belief that politics is what drives civilization. Adams is a patriot, pragmatist, and unapologetically proud of America. Beyond Lone Conservative, Adams is involved in a multitude of organizations, including serving on the leadership of and writing for The American Moderate. Adams is the lone centrist on Lone Conservative.

Looking to Submit an Article?

We always are happy to receive submissions from new and returning authors. If you're a conservative student with a story to tell, let us know!

Join the Team

Want to Read More?

From college experiences to political theory to sports and more, our authors have covered a wide assortment of topics tailored for millennials and students.

Browse the Archives