Affirmative action is a controversial and flawed policy—but as long as racial disparities exist in public education, it is far from the end of its life.
By the Editorial Board
We, the Arlingtonian staff, are divided on affirmative action. Although universities have a vested interest in ensuring diversity on their campuses, race-conscious admissions are a short term solution to a historical problem.
Affirmative action aims to rectify ventures of systemic racism and discrimination against minorities. However, a recent lawsuit against Harvard, brought forward by the group Students for Fair Admissions, reveals how racial bias still lives within the walls of college admissions. University records disclosed due to the lawsuit reveal Harvard consistently ranked Asian-Americans lower on their “personal” scores than Black and Hispanic applicants.
A 2009 study by Princeton University showed Asian-Americans had to score an average 140, 270 and 450 points higher on the SAT than white, Hispanic and Black students respectively to have the same chance of being admitted to top universities. Such pressure to overperform fosters a “dog-eat-dog” mentality that leads to increased competition, stress and disillusionment in the Asian-American community. Furthermore, it casts doubts on Asian applicants whether to mark their race on their applications. A policy meant to rectify racial oppressions should not be making applicants think twice whether or not their race can negatively impact them. To do so denies the very racial identity and diversity affirmative action seeks to promote.
To accept affirmative action as a solution to racial disparity in education is to accept a Band-Aid as appropriate for treating a laceration. Upper Arlington High School is 88 percent white. But this is no coincidence—rather, it is the consequence of decades of predatory real estate practices against minorities.
Only a few miles downtown, East High School is 89 percent Black, 6 percent Hispanic and only 3 percent white. Upper Arlington High School, situated in an affluent suburb, spends over $13,000 per student, more than $11,000 on classroom instruction, and received an A on their state report card. East High School, part of Columbus City Schools, spends 30 percent less per student, about half on classroom instruction, and received an F on its report card. It is telling that such disparities can exist within schools less than 10 miles away from each other, even 64 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.
As divided as we may be on the merits of affirmative action, the Arlingtonian staff holds it is necessary to increase funding for public schools. We have to look no farther than our own high school to realize the extent to which a well-funded public school can excel.
Until the quality of education in public schools improves, we cannot expect college admissions to be completely fair for all students. Affirmative action is a flawed policy—a short-term solution to the end goal of increasing diversity in education. The Harvard lawsuit shows its desperate need for reform. Yet we cannot get rid of race-conscious admissions until we solve the vast racial disparities entrenched in public education. Rather than divide ourselves over affirmative action, we must all work together for a more and better educated population across all levels, from kindergarten to high school to university and beyond. Only then will we see a college admissions process that is fair to all students.