BY ELISE BAGLEY
Affirmative action has been a controversial program ever since its initiation in 1961. The latest controversy comes from Students for Fair Admissions, which originally sued Harvard in 2014 over their affirmative action policy.
What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action is defined as a policy that favors groups of people who tend to suffer from discrimination. In 1961 President Kennedy issued an executive order that instructed federal contractors to use affirmative action to ensure that minority applicants receive the same consideration in employment applications. This policy is frequently used in the college admissions process for elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. Universities are allowed to consider race as a part of their admissions process, but the school cannot have a quota on the number of minority students that they admit.
What are the Benefits of Affirmative Action?
While it may seem counterintuitive to consider race in the admissions process, it has proved to be beneficial to the campus as a whole. Affirmative action has increased diversity by 23% in universities which plays a major role in a student’s education. Diversity drives innovation and fosters creativity in students while promoting student growth and understanding of the world around them. In order to succeed in an increasingly global business world, one must be able to collaborate and understand different backgrounds, cultures, and religions.
What are the Drawbacks of Affirmative Action?
This program may have been implemented to put an end to discrimination, but it can potentially promote “reverse discrimination” by accepting less qualified applicants because they are a minority. This can lead to an overall less qualified student body and high dropout rates of minorities in affirmative action schools.
What About the Harvard Case?
This case is different than many previous because it alleges that the Harvard undergraduate admissions program is “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures” against Asian-American applicants. Past lawsuits have not gained such national momentum, as they often feature a white student suing, but this time it’s a minority group. Harvard has denied these claims and defends their use of race in admissions, yet continues to state that race is never used against an applicant or as a deciding factor for any applicant. Students for Fair Admissions filed the case in November 2014 and the case is expected to head to the Supreme Court. Over the course of the hearings, Harvard has been forced to reveal some of their admissions policies, and it has been confirmed that it is harder for Asian American students to be admitted into the school. The arguments on this topic are complete in federal court, but it is likely it will take a few months to hear a decision. Considering the current status of the trial, it is possible it may end up in the Supreme Court.