Affirmative action is still important

Since Americans elected their first black president and saw the first appointed Hispanic Supreme Court justice, some have questioned the continuing need for affirmative action.

It is a controversial practice, but one that still has its place in today’s higher education environment. And studies back it up.

A 30-year research project at the University of Michigan found that black law students accepted under affirmative action guidelines were just as successful as other students.

Affirmative action, derived from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is crucial for offsetting some of the past injustices perpetrated on minorities in the U.S, which have contributed to the number of minorities attending college.

But in Florida, affirmative action was abolished a decade ago under Gov. Jeb Bush’s “One Florida” initiative, and minority enrollment has suffered because of it, according to an analysis by the Orlando Sentinel. In 1999, black students made up 17.5 percent of freshmen at state universities. By 2008, that number had shrunk to 14.9 percent.

USF student Stephan Dumas, a senior majoring in political science, said he does not like affirmative action but believes it serves a vital purpose by giving people a chance.

“The only thing is, by holding (blacks) to a different standard, we are still being oppressed. It’s a bit of a Catch-22,” Dumas said.

But senior Jordan Sullivan sees President Barack Obama’s election as a barometer for how far the nation has come and believes that the policy is still applicable to a post-Obama society.

“We haven’t really reached that real moment of equality yet,” Sullivan said. “A lot of people thought that Obama was that endpoint we were looking for to see if (affirmative action) worked, but that was just a honeymoon period. Hope can be blinding sometimes.”

In the era of Obama and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it’s been said affirmative action policies among American universities should be dismantled completely. However, a recent poll by the Wall Street Journal found that 63 percent of participants believe race relations have remained the same since Obama’s entry into the White House.

After the landmark affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that one day the use of racial preferences in university admissions would “no longer be necessary.”

But no single event – no matter how monumental – will mark the end of social and cultural disparities.

Several universities employ a system that allots points for factors such as race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, as well as grade point averages and test scores.

Affirmative action gives minority students an advantage in college admissions that may seem unfair, but it is needed to strike down racial inequalities.

Jean Telcy is a senior majoring in mass communications.