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Opinion: Negative effects

Kori Wilson: Race-based admissions unproductive at university level

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

When the Supreme Court upheld the use of race-conscious admissions at universities in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s majority opinion was based on the assumption that a diverse student body produced educational benefits.

For the first time since this monumental decision, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to affirmative action  practice at the University of Texas.

Although affirmative action at institutions of higher education may have good intentions, there are adverse effects that outweigh the presumed benefits. With any luck, the Supreme Court will repeal the permissibility of race-based university admissions.

According to Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute, “Affirmative action programs that leap-frog less-qualified minorities over more-qualified non-minorities sweep those systemic problems under the carpet. As such, race-based affirmative action programs perpetuate fraud upon the very groups they are designed to help.”

The heart of educational inequality in the U.S. lies at the K-12 levels of schooling and cannot be miraculously solved by admittance at the university level.

The NAACP cites that a high percentage of African-American students attended schools classified as “low Advanced Placement” relative to all other racial groups. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, both white and Asian-American students were at least twice as likely to take classes considered academically rigorous than African-American and Hispanic students.

Less than 10 percent of African-American or Hispanic students participated in courses deemed demanding and challenging in 2009.

Analyses by the Center in 2009 and 2011 show that African-American and Hispanic students lagged behind white students by an average of more than 20 test-score points in math and reading assessments in fourth and eighth grade — a difference of about two grade levels. Statistics were similarly telling for graduation rates, with white and Asian students leading African American  and Hispanic students by more than 20 percent.

It is reasonable to infer that socioeconomic factors drive achievement disparity. It is clear that there are inherent issues within the American primary and secondary education systems that lead to inequalities at the developmental levels, reducing the pool of minority college applicants and significantly hindering many minorities that do enter higher education.

The Pell Institute and Education Sector think tanks have found national higher education graduation rates to be stagnant. These static rates, compounded by graduation rate gaps between racial groups, reflect the theory that universities are more focused on achieving diversity than undergraduate success for minorities.

Although educational benefits are the cornerstone to the legality of race-based admissions in universities, the concept of diversity can be defined in more ways than one. Should diversity be concerned solely with race? Does the color of a person’s skin determine his or her unique contribution to the student body?

If universities are looking for a good measure of diversity in the student body, it would be less preposterous to have socioeconomic-based admissions, rather than relying on race and further perpetuating outdated stigmas.

What does affirmative action mean for major universities?

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas A&M  has the ability to  consider race in its admissions process, opening the possibility for  racial minorities to edge out non-minority, but equally-qualified applicants and further limiting the chance of admission for severely underprivileged, non-minority applicants. The ‘Top 10 Percent’ admission rule is effectively an automatic race-based admissions process, considering actual academic performance on a mutually exclusive scale, rather than a relative one. 10 percent is 10 percent, but not all graduating classes are created equally.

Race-conscious admissions at A&M serve as nothing more than a public relations agenda, placing any improvement of the University’s overall performance and future achievement in the background.

Race-based decisions could be effective  at the primary levels of education, but affirmative action at the University level is counterproductive, focusing the institution’s efforts on non-qualitative diversity rather than tangible achievement.


Kori Wilson is a senior finance major.

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