On Oct. 31, the majority of U.S. Supreme Court Justices raised skepticism over affirmative action, seemingly in favor of striking down the 57-year-old policy, according to the U.S. Supreme Court website.
With affirmative action in scrutiny, it is time to lay the policy to rest and realize there are more equitable ways to increase diversity. A way to mitigate the issue without causing discrimination itself is to eliminate socioeconomic barriers that prevent lower income students from success, like consideration of SAT scores.
Affirmative action refers to policies used by employers and educational institutions to allow qualified women and minorities to compete equally for jobs, education and promotional opportunities. Its purpose is to correct past and future discrimination, according to USF’s website.
In the college admissions process, it means race can be a factor taken into account when deciding whether someone can get into college or not. It has a long, controversial history, with dozens of cases being brought to court against it.
The Supreme Court spent five hours in oral argument, reviewing two past cases questioning the constitutionality of affirmative action on Oct. 31, according to an article by The New York Times.
Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard is a 2014 court case that called out Harvard for having a quota system on Asian Americans, denying them entry because of their race, according to the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina questions whether taking race into account for college admissions violates the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the law, according to the same source.
“Race for some highly qualified applicants can be a determining factor,” admitted a Harvard lawyer to Chief Justice John Roberts in the Oct. 31 questioning.
This admission of using race as a determining factor shows how unfair the admissions system for Harvard is. To deny someone entry based on their race is a blatant and unfair discrimination.
“What concerns people is preferential treatment based on race, which is just another way of saying discrimination based on race. You can’t prefer one race without discriminating against another race,” Gail Heriot, attorney and member of U.S Commision on Civil Rights, said in an interview with CBS.
While this policy was needed when it first came out, it has now become discriminatory in itself. Diversity is important in schools, but to achieve that by preferring students by the color of their skin is hypocritical.
Now that the Supreme Court seems in favor of striking down affirmative action, it’s time to devise ways to continue to encourage diversity in a race-neutral admissions process.
The true root issue of lack of diversity is not a race issue — it’s an opportunity issue. The lack of Black and Hispanic people at the world’s top universities isn’t because of their race, but because white and Asian students often have more opportunity in academia.
This can be seen throughout standardized test scores, in which white and Asian students historically have scored marginally higher than Black and Hispanic students, according to research gathered by Brookings.
“Students who are white and more economically affluent have better access to standardized test preparation, tutoring and other resources that are often out of reach for students of color,” according to the Boston Globe.
Focusing merely on looking at race to increase diversity in college campuses is like putting a band aid on a bullet hole.
The real issue is a socioeconomic one, where inequitable measures like SAT scores and legacy admissions damage both racial and economic diversity. Since students from poorer families typically do not have the opportunities for tutors and countless hours studying for the standardized test, the SAT has become an indicator of the unequal wealth gap across America.
It’s important to increase diversity by supporting disadvantaged students once they are enrolled. USF’s program, Guaranteed Admissions Pathway Programs (GAPP) is made to increase opportunities in underrepresented and Title I schools.
“Each year, GAPP partners with schools that are working hard to close achievement gaps while increasing college readiness for students from underrepresented, first-generation and special populations,” according to its website.
While affirmative action itself can be discriminatory against Asian and white students, to take SAT scores out of the question and focus on income in college admissions will open up race and income diversity amongst students.