Affirmative Action in College Admissions: BCA Opinions

Juliet Lee, Editor

On the eve of middle school, I asked my parents about the process of applying to college. But instead of telling me what I might expect — writing an essay, taking tests, etc. — they sat me down and told me to check the boxes “other” or “white” when filling out the section titled “race.” This piece of information has stuck with me, and as the daughter of a caucasian mother and a Korean father, I have come to understand the role race can play in defining one’s perceived characteristics. 

With the Supreme Court’s current reexamination of Affirmative Action in terms of race-based college admission, the contrast and similarities between the racism faced by Asians and other minority groups are being highlighted like never before. And as the thought of college weighs heavy on the shoulders and in the minds of BCA students, the changing role of this policy may have a significant meaning at our school. 

Interviewing or surveying 43 members of the BCA community, the Academy Chronicle gauged opinions on this divisive issue. 

The primary argument for such Affirmative Action is that it “evens the playing field,” said one anonymous AVPA sophomore. 

To the 31.7% of the survey respondees who believed the policy is fair, this makes sense: in a country where racism has settled deep in the roots of society, those of Black or Latinx minorities have been proven to have a higher chance of being born economically disadvantaged. Thus, Affirmative Action allows colleges to admit students based upon potential — their achievement given their lack of resources.

In the words of one AMST sophomore, “some largely Black or Hispanic public schools just don’t have the same funding. Affirmative Action gives capable, but disadvantaged students the opportunity to rise out of poverty and change their circumstances.” 

“Still,” she said, “it is also flawed.” 

As the student acknowledged, there are issues with judging individuals based upon fuzzy metric of potential. According to the American Psychological Association, “a self-identified Asian student will need 140 SAT points higher than whites, 320 SAT points higher than Hispanics, and 450 SAT points higher than African Americans.” In other words, while Asians are still considered a minority that faces racism, they are held to an even higher standard than those who identify as white.

Considering that 51.8% of BCA’s is Asian, perhaps this is also why the vast majority of survey respondees believed that race should not play any role in college admissions. 

Agreeing, one AMST sophomore who said this about the issue: “Asians don’t face the same sort of racism as  other minorities, but we are still discriminated against. It is hypocritical that Asians are given less opportunities than white people who are arguably born with more privilege.”

Another student advocated for a merit-based system: “I don’t think it’s fair that Asian students are sacrificed, while primarily white legacy students are allowed to attend.” 

It is also evident that while Affirmative Action is a solution to some issues, it has not entirely removed racial discrimination in education — even among Black and Latinx students. Indeed, only 38.5% of surveyed students believed that the policy is an effective counter to systemic racism. 

Likening Affirmative Action to a merely “band-aid” for the deep wound that racism has caused in American society, one AVPA sophomore said that the “only solution” to racism in education would be to “provide education opportunities when they are young, especially in poor and marginalized communities.” 

Other students agreed with this stance: “In the long run,” one AMST sophomore said, “whether or not Affirmative Action is kept will not do that much. If we really want to solve the issues of systemic racism in our country, we must come up with better solutions.”

But perhaps a bandaid is better than nothing at all. 

For one anonymous ATCS junior, this is certainly true: while she personally believed she would benefit from the removal of this policy, she argued that Affirmative Action should be “revised” rather than done away with entirely. “Will removing it right now really help improve systemic racism?” she questioned.

Another AMST sophomore agreed with this stance, supporting the idea of improving the policy by adding to the five official United States racial categories. “Grouping so many people together in races isn’t fair,” she said. “Requiring Middle Eastern people to identify as white ignored the fact that they are not actually given the privileges of a white person in real life. More groups would also acknowledge the different types of racism faced among different Asian cultures and ethnicities, and this could be factored into admissions.”

In the end, there is no definitive answer to the debate of Affirmative Action. But, as members of our BCA community and as American citizens — privileged or not — we must collaborate and strive towards a future where our backgrounds do not define our opportunities.