Over the past year, the Supreme Court has been pondering the issue of affirmative action in college admissions, starting with Abigail Fisher, who filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas on the basis of being denied admission due to the preference of minorities; and more recently adding a case out of Michigan regarding the constitutionality of a ban on race inclusive admission.
Supporters of affirmative action say that it is a Civil Right minorities deserve, while those who oppose it believe that affirmative action does not uphold standards of equality.
Both sides may have valid arguments, but the basis of the discussion, whether or not we still need affirmative action in college admissions, can be answered with a simple no. In fact, when Lisa Garcia-Hanson, UWT Director of Admissions, heard about the lawsuit she, was surprised.
“I thought we were past all that. That we knew what we needed to do,” she said.
While the university has taken no official stance on the case, UWT clearly demonstrates an ability to build a diverse student body without affirmative action, and has since 1999 when I-200 banned affirmative action from college admissions in Washington State. No one would argue that UWT is lacking in diversity. In fact diversity is a core value of the school, which has managed to enroll its most diverse student body ever this year.
Affirmative action is no longer desperately needed in college admissions, but it could also be said, based on the current situation, that it is indeed becoming counterproductive. Garcia-Hanson explained that the whole issue of affirmative action creates a negative atmosphere wherein students begin to question the legitimacy of their peers. Therefore issues, such as a Supreme Court battles may arise.
Yes, Abigail Fisher may have had a higher GPA and SAT score than some of the people who were accepted in the year she was refused, but in a holistic process such as that at UT, each student is examined individually and their merits are measured against the university’s standards, not against other students. Thus Fisher’s claim that she was refused because of a minority student’s acceptance is unlikely but this is what many people believe affirmative action means.
Most universities utilize the non-cognitive factors developed by William Sedlacek, a Professor of Emeritus Education at the University of Maryland, to determine which students will be the most successful. Studies show that academic excellence is a less dependable predictor of college success than the ability to overcome obstacles, a trait Garcia-Hanson highlighted as one of her favorites. Those who have this characteristic are able to understand that obstacles are placed in their way through no fault of their own, but it is their responsibility to find a way around them. These people have a high rate of success in college and are spread across a variety of races, genders, and socioeconomic classes.
A diverse student body is essential to create the ideal learning environment. As Garcia-Hansen said, “We want our students to understand what the world is like.”
Diversity has been proven over and over to be key in creating a good academic or work environment, but this diversity can be attained without the wealth of misconceptions that has become our modern day version of affirmative action.