Why Affirmative Action Is Necessary in Higher Education

Carolyn Hsu and Winifred Kao

 

From New America Media:

 

Op-Ed

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a potentially landmark case that could end the use of race-based affirmative action in higher education.

 

The court ruled nine years ago that although quota systems in admissions processes at colleges and universities were unconstitutional, race can be used as a positive factor, just not a decisive factor.

 

Court Previously Affirmed Campus Diversity

The high court reasoned that considering race as a factor – or race consciousness – in the admissions process is important because a diverse student body improves the education of all students.

 

Abigail Noel Fisher, along with Rachel Multer Michalewicz, both white, claim they were unconstitutionally denied admission as undergraduates to the University of Texas, Austin (UT-Austin), in 2008, as a result of its affirmative-action policy.

 

With this new case, the court’s previous ruling that race can be considered as part of the admissions process, is in danger of being overturned.

 

The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice — Asian American Institute, Asian American Justice Center, Asian Law Caucus and Asian Pacific American Legal Center will be filing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold race-conscious admissions.

 

We need affirmative action policies because not everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Universities should be allowed to consider the whole person, including one’s experiences as a racial minority, so the opportunities that come from higher education are available to all qualified students.

 

Asian Americans may appear to be well represented at some of the most selective universities, but among the various Asian ethnic groups, many, such as Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, continue to be vastly underrepresented. A university should be allowed to consider race as one of many factors in order to promote equal opportunity and educational diversity in its classrooms and on its campus.

 

Additionally, Asian Americans continue to be underrepresented in corporate sector managerial positions and public contracting. Affirmative-action programs provide Asian Americans with invaluable employment and business opportunities that otherwise would not be available.

 

Reliance on GPA, SAT Scores Discriminatory

Furthermore, affirmative action is needed to offset the racial discrimination captured by the use of admissions criteria, such as grade point average (GPA) and SAT scores.

 

Without considering race, the use of GPAs and SAT scores in admissions is unfairly biased against minority students. Over-reliance on GPA and SAT scores results in the filtering out of qualified minority applicants whose contributions to the learning environment enhances the competitiveness of all students in the increasingly global and multicultural workforce.

 

GPAs are not colorblind measures of merit because many students of color, particularly low-income blacks, Latinos and certain Asian and Pacific Islander subgroups continue to attend separate and unequal schools with higher concentrations of poverty, fewer qualified teachers, higher teacher turnover, fewer honors and advanced-placement (AP) courses, greater overcrowding and fewer overall resources — factors that all affect a student’s grades.

 

Many undergraduate schools, including the University of California and UT-Austin, exacerbate the differences by inflating GPAs or assigning additional weight to an applicant for the completion of AP courses. Even where AP courses are offered, many minority students are unable to take them because they are discriminatorily assigned into lower educational tracks.

 

Studies have also documented biases in standardized tests, such as the SAT, which disproportionately impact students of color.

 

Moreover, testing bias is the only logical explanation for the documented and significant racial test score gaps that persist even between white and minority students with identical academic numerical credentials. Students of color should not have their academic achievements diminished based on a four-hour test that cannot fully capture a student’s potential.

 

Where admissions processes rely too heavily on criteria like GPAs and SAT scores, the reality of how racial discrimination shapes those criteria must be taken into account. Without considering race and culture, the use of such criteria is unfairly biased in favor of white students.

 

Author Bios:

Carolyn Hsu is a voting-rights fellow and Winifred Kao is a staff attorney on employment and workers’ rights, both at the Asian Law Caucus, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

 

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Comments

It is extremely troubling to me how some Asian American groups can still be pro-affirmative action in this day and age despite the growing amount of evidence indicating university admission standards to meet racial quotas disadvantage Asian Americans as a group.  It may very well be the case that some Asian subgroups are more disadvantaged than others, however, application forms do not make any distinction between types of Asian descent or socioeconomic standing.  

The reality is Asian Americans are no longer considered an underrepresented minority when it comes to admissions and affirmative action will continue to require us to score higher than all other groups as well as compete more amongst each other because a certain racial quota system has limited the number of seats for us.

The column ignores the fact that racial preferences in university admissions almost always discriminate AGAINST Asian Americans.  It tries to justify this discrimination by claiming that many minorities are disadvantaged.  But it makes no sense to use race as a proxy for disadvantage in 2012.  There are many whites and Asian who are disadvantaged, yet who are now discriminated against.  And there are many blacks and Latinos who are not disadvantaged -- in fact, 86 percent of the African Americans admitted to the more selective schools come from middle- or upper-class families.  If you want to give special consideration to disadvantaged students, fine, but don't assume that skin color tells you who is disadvantaged. 

Email: 
rclegg@ceousa.org

I am Asian-American and the say these people represent Asian-American views is to say David Duke represents white people.

Email: 
noshead61@yahoo.com

What a disingenuous, dishonest article.  The authors keep talking about underrepresented Asian minorities like Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders.  So what?  Do any university applications give you a choice to specify that you are one of the underrepresented Asian minorites?  NO.  Would any university admissions committees even care if they knew you were an underrepresented Asian minority?  NO.  You get lumped into "Asian/Pacific Islander" as a single category and have to compete against other Asian Americans for a small number of spots limited by a quota placed on your race, exactly like what the Jews experienced in this country decades ago.  Asian Americans have to score significantly higher on their SAT's and their GPA's than any other ethnicity in order to get the same spot.  There is absolutely no way to see this as anything other than racial discrimination against Asian Americans.  How dare this deluded organization and these deluded people filing these ridiculous amicus briefs presume to speak on behalf of Asian Americans in general?

Email: 
rackbar@hotmail.com

The comments here are spot on. Anyone whose gone through the US college admissions process in the last two decades or so knows that Asian Americans are generally held to a higher standard than other minority groups (and possibly even higher than Whites) in terms of GPA/SAT scores. In addition to seriously disadvantaging Asian Americans from challenging socio-economic backgrounds (including recent immigrants), such policies also likely contribute to the propogation of widespread stereotypes about Asians being nerdy or "not well rounded" on a lot of college campuses. The authors are either delusional or have some other not-so-covert agenda/motive for writing this piece and ought to do better research prior to publishing such opinion pieces in the future.

The author taks about southeast asians as if they benefit from AA in college addmissions, when they don't. When California abolished AA, the number of southeast asians admitted increase by large numbers. If we benefited from AA this wouldn't have happen. 

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