DEVLIN: Affirmative Action Harms Minority Students


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed written by Dr. Warikoo, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Ms. Foley, an admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania, titled, “How Elite Schools Stay So White.” In the article, they argue we must, “reject educational systems that, behind a commitment to equity, quietly perpetuate the status quo” and that “admissions policies continue to push people of color to the margins.” They’re right. That policy has a name. It’s called affirmative action.

The Left’s logic to justify affirmative action is as follows. First, access to higher education was slanted heavily against brown and black applicants for hundreds of years because of racist admissions policies (which is true). To rectify this historical injustice, viewing race with impartiality in the admissions process is not a satisfactory redress of grievances. Thus, an unjust system to tilt admissions in favor of black and brown applicants (intersectional affirmative action that leaves out Asian and Jewish applicants) must be implemented to achieve social justice.

But just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two inequitable systems don’t make an equitable one.

Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung of Princeton University studied nearly 125,000 applications for admissions and found that (on a SAT 1600 point scale) black applicants received a boost of 230 SAT points, Hispanic applicants received a 185 point boost. Meanwhile, Asian American applicants suffered losses of 50 SAT points; SAT scores of Jewish applicants were also negatively afflicted.

The systems’ quantified inequities are reviving legal debates on the constitutionality of race-based admissions policies. Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group focused on injustice in admissions to institutions of higher education, has recently filed a lawsuit against Harvard University for its anti-Asian admissions policies.

Warikoo and Foley’s response to the concerns with affirmative action raised in the case against Harvard proves the Left does not care about equity of treatment. According to Warikoo and Foley, “the plaintiffs use supposed anti-Asian bias as a way to undermine affirmative action for blacks and Latinos.”

The ultimate goal of affirmative action is to end the underrepresentation of minorities on college campuses, which is undoubtedly a noble cause. However, advocates of affirmative action have let their altruism blind them to reality.

Affirmative action harms the communities it claims to help by mismatching some black and latino students with universities or colleges that supersede their educational abilities. Professors are well aware of this problem. A 1996 Rapper Poll study found that when campus administrators are protected by anonymity, a majority of professors oppose affirmative action in hiring and admissions because of the problems mismatched students face.

For instance, black college freshmen want to study STEM fields more than their white counterparts, but abandon these subjects twice as often. Mismatched black students are also twice as likely to quit pursuing a doctorate or an academic career. What’s more, about half of black students end up in the bottom 20 percent of their classes (and the bottom 10 percent in law school); black law students are four times as likely to fail the bar than whites, with affirmative action-based mismatching, rather than any innate inferiority, being the dominant driver of this statistic.

World-renowned economist Thomas Sowell explains why this is the case. Sowell remembers when he was a professor at Cornell and the majority of students at Cornell scored in the 99th percentile on their SATs. Thus, the professors taught to that elite level. Because affirmative action lowered standards for black applicants, black students’ SAT scores were, on average, the 75th percentile. Sadly, 50 percent of Cornell’s black students ended up on academic probation because these students didn’t have the skill set to keep up.

That’s not to say these students at the 75th percentile aren’t capable of succeeding. They’re very capable, but they would be better situated to thrive in an academic environment that meets their educational needs at schools like USC or Duke.

This isn’t just true in the abstract. It actually happened after California’s affirmative action ban came into effect in 1998. While minority enrollment in the UC system’s most elite schools declined, acceptance to less elite schools somewhat mitigated those losses. Even so, enrollment rates mean nothing if a student does not receive a degree they can use to build a career and better their economic prospects. Graduation rates increased for black and hispanic students once California ditched affirmative action.

Affirmative action’s soft bigotry of low expectations is destructive, ignorant, and downright nasty because it continues to stigmatize and undermine the credibility of our nation’s most intelligent, dynamic, and vibrant minority students.

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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

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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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