Weekly Take Away: Affirmative action masks real problem

Lee McClelland

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled on Thursday, Nov. 15, that the ban on affirmative action in Michigan is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding the case of Fisher v. University of TexasAustin: a case regarding a white woman who applied for admission to the university and was denied.

Abigail Fisher claimed that the use of affirmative action in the admissions process was the determining factor that resulted in her admissions denial.

The debate about whether or not affirmative action is a fair process may well come to an end if the Supreme Court rules that affirmative action cannot be used as a factor in the admissions process.

In 2003, a case regarding the use of affirmative action in the admissions process, Grutter v. Bollinger, was decided by the Supreme Court.

The justices found that the use of affirmative action was constitutional on the basis that “the Law School’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.”

The argument for affirmative action on behalf of the University of Michigan’s side was that affirmative action allows the university to admit underrepresented minorities into the university, thus creating a learning environment that exposes students to a myriad of perspectives and opinions.

I agree that diverse life experiences and viewpoints are invaluable in the classroom, but perhaps affirmative action is not the most effective way to ensure a diverse enrollment within a university environment.

In Texas, for example, there is a law that guarantees students who are ranked within the top 10 percent of their class will be able to attend any Texas university of their choosing.

The Top 10 Percent Law allows for anyone to attend university that performs well in high school.

Promoting academic excellence across the board, regardless of race, allows for students to gain entry to schools that may otherwise have rigorous admissions processes.

The Top 10 Percent Law emphasizes academic achievement, but it does not take into account the socioeconomic factors that are often symptomatic of those who are unable to obtain a quality education.

If a child’s parents have not attended college and work a menial job that pays enough for their family to live in a low-income area, then the quality of the educational institutions in that area will more than likely be lacking in services.

Public schools are paid for by taxes; more specifically, millages based on property values within a community.

Low-income areas do not garner much money because the property values are lesser than in wealthier communities.

Children who attend these schools often underperform academically, and legislation like the Top 10 Percent Law does not account for these fundamental missteps in the educational process.

Affirmative action, then, is a Band-Aid for an educational system in need of serious reform. By allowing minorities to have preference over others, universities are trying to increase diversity based only on ethnic identity.

Diversity is more than just race. What about admissions that show preference for religious minorities or those under-represented individuals whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual? Race has taken precedence over these other factors in admissions.

These are characteristics isolated for the purpose of collecting statistics to show, by way of numbers, that a university is diverse and represents minorities.

Those under-represented individuals who are looking to gain access to universities need an education that can allow them to gain entry to a university based on academic merit rather than ethnic characteristics.

So why is race such a weighted factor in the admissions process?

Historically, minorities have faced barriers to entry in regards to employment, housing and education.

When former President Lyndon B. Johnson, with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pushed for the passage of affirmative action into law, he provided a clear basis for its need in American society.

Johnson stated in his 1965 speech that those who have faced such adversity as slavery and bigotry should not be expected to be brought up “to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and justly believe that you have been completely fair.”

Thanks to progress in society and the passage of laws, which help us to achieve these great leaps and bounds in social thoughts and actions, minorities enjoy more opportunities today.

That is not to say that they are competing on a completely even playing field.

Until the United States Government enacts a progressive educational reform that addresses the needs of those from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, there will be no even playing field.

You cannot look back the history of the United States and say that we have found a cure for all of our problems.

Address the problems at hand, but do not stop the healing process. Without a long-term solution in place, Americans will need affirmative action to cure the social ills that still exist in our society.

Unless, that is, the Supreme Court says otherwise when it decides Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin.