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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Reevaluating affirmative action needed in changing society

    Land of the free and home of the great, America is a country where all citizens are able to thrive with opportunities. It is a country that is constantly battling for equality in homes, schools and the workplace. Among measures taken to improve this equality is affirmative action.

    Affirmative action was a program originally favored as a means to diversify America’s workforce, by creating fairness in employment opportunities for minorities. But, it was soon realized that affirmative action would fail to diversify the workforce unless it was applied to those working in higher education, the place where the leaders of our workforce are taught.

    In 2012, when a white student was denied admission into the University of Texas, she claimed that affirmative action policies upheld by the university discriminated against her race. Taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court, on June 24, the Supreme Court sent its recent ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

    In response to the 13-page opinion with the 7-1 majority, the New York times editorial board said, “The [United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit] must do a better job of determining that the university needs to rely on race in admissions to achieve greater diversity, including why it wants to admit more minorities in the first place.”

    Assuming that this case may be just the beginning of the end of racial preferences in college admissions, many liberals are considering substitutes to the prior measures, in the form of class-based affirmative action.

    The idea is simple: leveling the playing field for economically disadvantaged college applicants will maintain a diversified student body, as there is a connection between minorities and poor economic class.

    This connection can be backed by data found in a 2009 spreadsheet from The Urban Institute, which said, “Four million low-income families (or 30 percent of the total) are Hispanic, 2.9 million (22 percent) are black or African American, and about 800,000 (6 percent) are other nonwhites.”

    If a future Supreme Court ruling classifies race-based affirmative action as a discriminatory measure in college admissions, class-based affirmative action is a fair substitution to consider.

    Instead of trying to patch up years of hatred and discrimination, class-based affirmative action looks at the broader picture, recognizing its policies as a means of moving forward, while simultaneously addressing economic and social problems.

    Opponents of class-based policies worry that this substitution is operating under the assumption that all poor people are minorities, thus reinforcing unwanted stereotypes. To the contrary, studies show that substituting class-based policies achieves nearly the same amount of diversity in a student body as traditional policies. This alone demonstrates a common relationship between minorities and poor economic standing.

    According to an article found on MotherJones.com, studies show that admissions based on class-based affirmative action result in a student body composed of 10 percent black and Latino students. This is compared to the slightly higher percentage that is achieved when admissions consider race-based affirmative action.

    One of the many drivers of affirmative action is to increase the diversity of a student body, and these statistics are a testimony to the fact that class-based affirmative action admission policies are nearly as effective in creating this diversity as race-based policies.

    Despite the minor loss in diversity levels when class-based policies are in effect, there are still many reasons to consider class-based affirmative action as a suitable alternative to its contender.

    According to research provided by Richard D. Kahlenberg, author of A Better Affirmative Action: State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences, “Economic obstacles to a student’s performance on standardized tests are seven times as large as the racial obstacles.”

    Despite how equal this country may appear to be, minorities still face many unseen racial obstacles. However, in regards to performance levels in the classroom, research shows that students who face economic obstacles are at a greater disadvantage than those facing purely race-based obstacles.

    This alone is a reason to consider leveling the playing field in college admissions in regards to affirmative action based on economic standing. As well as there being a significant relationship between class-based affirmative action programs and graduation rates. Research shows that higher graduation rates are achieved when class-based affirmative action policies are in effect, as opposed to the prior race-based policies, according to an article found on MotherJones.com.

    In his 1965 speech, President Lyndon Johnson laid the foundation of affirmative action programs when he said, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”

    In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 45 percent of respondents said that they still support this statement and affirmative action programs. However, 45 percent of the respondents also believe that these programs discriminate against whites.

    Nearly half a century later, it appears that President Johnson’s statement can still be adopted by class-based policies as affirmative action is not being completely eliminated, rather, it is adapting to our changing society.

    Liberals are not trying to ignore or forget the years of adversity that minorities have fought (and continue to fight) in their support of class-based affirmative action.

    In implementing class-based policies, a person’s race is not being ignored, but recognized as a way to build equality in America. In the event race-based affirmative action is deemed unconstitutional in the future, class-based affirmative action appears to be the next best thing.

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