In high school, I found that most discussions of affirmative action came in the form of a snide remark. During the standardized testing days, it went like, “If only I were black, then I wouldn’t have to worry about this test.” And later, as acceptances and rejections drew smiles and tears, the remark bobbed back up: “Makes sense why he didn’t get into [elite school]. It’s so hard to get in if you’re Asian.”
There is a vital, sometimes frustrating, debate to be had on affirmative action. The common story on race-based admissions appeals to the passions. Surely, any just admissions system will ensure marginalized groups — disempowered by centuries of compounding disadvantage — get a fair shake.
“That is that students who are perceived to have benefited from affirmative action are then expected to integrate at all times, because that’s the bargain: you get admission and you diversify the white environment,” Warikoo explained.
On Monday, The Sun published an editorial titled “Stand with Harvard on Affirmative Action.” It concerned the ongoing lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which went to trial in Boston this week. The editorial reaffirmed The Sun’s long-standing support for affirmative action and positive race consideration in the college admissions process. It also expressed our worry that the outcome of this case will be the end of affirmative action and positive race consideration in all college admissions processes nationwide. However, the editorial did not pay sufficient attention to the specific claims against Harvard included in the suit. The suit claims that Harvard systematically rated Asian-American applicants lower on “personal scores” — the least-defined of the five categories on which all applicants are scored.
A few months ago in the spring, I had a sit-down with a charming professor about a homework problem I was stuck on, and while the chat was productive, it soon devolved into tiptoeing around a racial issue that, frankly, has worn a bit thin on me. When I told her I was Chinese, she inevitably started talked about her experience traveling abroad in mainland China, and while her eyes glowed when she talked about the sights she saw, her mouth began to twitch uncomfortably when she descended from the sights to the people. And word for word, before she began, I knew what she was going to say. It isn’t a secret in the Chinese American community that there is a certain disdain for their peers from abroad. Whether it’s true or not, nationals are regarded as louder, less behaved and generally less suited for assimilation in America.
Everyone has dreams, and a college degree has always been seen as a crucial means to reaching them. As a result, more people than ever are trying to obtain higher education, and they have good reason to believe that the quality and prestige of the college they attend can have a significant impact on the quality and prestige of the work they do after graduation. Controversy arises when it’s deemed that certain groups of people have an unfair advantage in the admissions process. I have listened to engineers — male engineers — lament the school’s allegedly lower standards for female applicants. They had to work extremely hard to gain acceptance to Cornell’s engineering program, while others, they claim, just “walked in” because they “have vaginas.” Despite the misogyny conveyed by this language, however, unqualified girls in engineering are the least of our concerns, when one considers the apparent injustice done when black and Latinx applicants with credentials inferior to those of white applicants are given what those white applicants deem preferential treatment in college admissions.
“By having the Asian American community advocate for this, we are still going to get a large amount of inclusion, because socio-economic oppression is linked to economic oppression and the ability to afford or access resources that allow one to get into a university,” he said.
The concern that Asian applicants must perform better than non-Asians to achieve parity underlies the newest tide of legal challenges to the use of race in admission — a tide that now is rolling toward Ithaca’s shores.
Political activist Ward Connerly said he makes “no apology for saying that I am a guy who belongs to the camp of color-blindness.” In a Wednesday lecture hosted by the Cornell Republicans, the former University of California regent spoke on the future of racial preferences in higher education. Connerly gained national attention in the 1990s when he served on the University of California’s governing board and led controversial efforts to dismantle affirmative action policies in University admissions. His initiative led to a statewide ballot measure that prohibited all state governmental institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity with regards to employment, contracting and education. Connerly later led similar successful efforts in Michigan, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma. According to Connerly, he felt uncomfortable with the way the University used race in admission policies, giving preferences to underrepresented minorities through affirmative action.