In an effort to further combat college applicant processing based on race, the Trump administration is investigating Yale University, which has received accusations of discrimination against Asian-American applicants. Around a month ago, the Justice Department faced a similar case of Asian-Americans accusing Harvard University for using race as a factor in admissions. In that investigation, the DOJ sided with the Asian-American students after finding evidence that proves Harvard University directly controlled the diversity of their incoming classes, and an official for admissions stated in a deposition that race played a factor in admissions, although never fully specifying in what way.
The current investigation into Yale was based on a 2016 accusation from the Asian-American Coalition for Education that also included Brown and Dartmouth, but the education department only had enough information to look into Yale. Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, has denied these claims so far, citing that the Asian-American population in the class of 2022 is 27.1 percent, a high point in the steady increase they’ve seen in the past 15 years.
Stories like these typically bring up the longstanding question of whether or not affirmative action policies should be done away with. It’s already banned in eight states right now, with those areas using different strategies to increase diversity, such as University of Washington and the University of California system giving applicants the opportunity to explain any hardships they faced growing up and how they coped in the face of such challenges. Promoting an atmosphere of diversity is the main argument as to why schools should uphold race as a factor in the college admissions process, but these eight states are exemplifying that there are better ways to achieve diversity if people really believe it’s a necessity in a thriving student body.
These strategies are ways to gain a sense of context about the student’s background (i.e. whether they came from a low-resource high school or a nontraditional family upbringing), which allows the universities the ability to remain accessible to those who come from disadvantaged communities. The eight states that currently ban affirmative action policies also try to introduce new forms of financial aid as one of their new methods of increasing diversity without explicitly looking at race alone. These race-neutral methods also have proven to be just as successful in producing ethnic diversity.
Additionally, while most organizations advocating for “color-blind” admission processes are labeled as conservative, this issue isn’t as divided of a topic as it often appears. The amount of Americans who disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling that race can be a part of the admissions process was 65 percent. The case itself, Fisher v. University of Texas, essentially continued to protect the notion that considering race in a college admissions was constitutional. However, this victory to supporters of affirmative action policies came unexpectedly, as many of us believe in a process where students should be evaluated solely on merit. It’s also noteworthy that the alternative methods that are currently being enacted in universities that don’t abide by affirmative action policies are creating better outlets for students to express their own personal situations and circumstances, while managing to still build a diverse community at their schools.
This isn’t to say that affirmative action policies were never needed, because in a time where the Civil Rights Act was on the the brink of being passed, affirmative action policies gave minorities the extra push they needed and was implemented with the intentions of lessening systematic racism when applying for jobs or educational opportunities. However, affirmative action policies are starting to become more of a penalizing factor, especially for Asian-Americans – in the 2009 book “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” Thomas Espenshade and Alexandra Radford examined how well one would have to do on their SAT in order to have an equal chance of admission as a competing applicant of a different race. Data gathered from seven highly selective universities, while also factoring in other features of the application, showed that against a white applicant, Asian-Americans got a 140 point penalty, while Hispanics got a bonus of 130 points, and African Americans got a 310 point bonus.
It’s important to recognize that students don’t always have the same starting point when it comes to education, but to keep a system that has become outdated and flawed isn’t the solution. Solving the pressing issue of how those usually from low-income backgrounds are at a disadvantage should come in other forms of aid besides assumptions that certain minorities are lacking in scores and grades for college applications. On the contrary, affirmative action policies now seem to be degrading the successes of those minorities who were admitted based on their merit. Instead of trying to invalidate the achievements of those who were able to access resources to boost their chances of getting into the college of their choice, it’s necessary to emphasize how people of all races aren’t immune to a lack of the means to achieve academically, and that’s where the problem solving should begin.