On Monday, lawsuits were announced against Harvard and the University of North Carolina for their race-based affirmative action policies. The lawsuits argue these policies hurt Asian students by holding them to a higher standard for admission. Despite an increasing number of highly qualified Asian applicants, the universities’ admissions policies seek to limit the number of admits in this minority group, the suits allege.

KimLIf you couldn’t already tell from my last name, I’m Asian-American. During the admissions process, I didn’t exactly feel that my race helped me gain my acceptance letters. But do I think that abandoning affirmative action — that “forgetting” about race in the application process — is the route colleges ought to take? In short, no.

Clearly, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Yale. I am not currently affected by affirmative action policies, but rather dealt with them in the past. In addition, I want to clarify that I’m not attempting to push the “model minority” stereotype, which dictates that all Asian applicants are upper-middle-class, high-achieving students. Asian Americans come from backgrounds as diverse as any other group, and that certainly shouldn’t be forgotten.

That being said, I do think certain groups of students often have it rough in the admissions process — one study found that a white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted to a selective school than an Asian applicant with comparable academic records. However, abandoning affirmative action policies is not the best way to ameliorate this problem.

Other minorities, such as blacks and Latinos, are still subject to systemic discrimination in this country. The system is skewed against these minority groups. Affirmative action may not be ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We need some way of correcting for these disadvantages and biases.

These minorities aren’t presented the same opportunities and environments as other groups. Even recent events, such as Ferguson and the death of Trayvon Martin, give us a particularly vivid reminder that although we’ve come a long way on racial equality, we still have a long way to go, and we don’t, by any means, live in a post-racial society. Many people still face a world that is stacked against them.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about STEM not being a female-friendly environment. Likewise, many extracurriculars, both academic and non-academic, present entry barriers for particular minority groups. Making admissions race-blind would ignore this critical fact.

I do believe there’s some truth to the claim that my acceptance to my high school mock trial team was easier than my African-American teammate’s acceptance. I faced fewer inherent obstacles. It seems unfair to equally weigh the same extracurricular activity listed on our applications. Diversity is critical for the health of this University and, for the most part, affirmative action does a good job at promoting it.

Of course, there is also some truth to the claim that the admissions process can often be unfair to particular groups of students, but I don’t think we should target affirmative action in order to solve this problem.

Many have cited getting rid of legacy and donor preferences as a way to open up universities to more diversity. Others have said we ought to de-emphasize the “holistic” characteristic of applications, arguing that it works to the detriment of students who do not have extensive extracurricular opportunities.

Admittedly, I’m not quite sure where I stand on these issues. While in theory, getting rid of legacy and donor preferences is egalitarian, I’m not familiar enough with the mechanics and operations of universities to know the effects such changes would have on alumni relations and finances. And I certainly do think that universities should have “holistic” application processes: They make for a more diverse student body with a wide and variable range of interests, passions and quirks.

I’m not here to offer a solution. I’m aware that I don’t know enough to do that. However, I know what’s not the solution: getting rid of affirmative action. It may alleviate one problem, but then you’re just left with another one that’s just as bad, if not worse. It’s like sinking a boat to stop a fire.

Leo Kim is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His columns run on alternate Thursdays. Contact him at leo.kim@yale.edu.

  • aaleli

    “Other minorities, such as blacks and Latinos, are still subject to systemic discrimination in this country. The system is skewed against these minority groups.”

    Minority programs sponsored by APSA, see Minority and Diversity Programs.

    Other Information Resources

    Minority Scholarship Gateway

    Minority Scholarships

    American Indian Graduate Center

    Black Excel

    ASPIRA College Resources

    ImDiversity.com Graduate and Professional School Channel

    LatinoCollegeDollars.org

    Seminars, Summer Institutes, and Residence Programs

    Undergraduates

    Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, an annual five-week program designed to introduce undergraduate minority students to the world of graduate study and to encourage application to Ph.D programs.

    Other

    American Bar Foundation Law and Social Science Dissertation Fellowship & Mentoring Program Minorities encouraged to apply.

    Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Program
    Schomburg Center, New York Public Library, New York, New York

    That’s a very partial list.

    • ethanjrt

      I read that three times, and I’m still pretty sure you just tried to argue that the existence of Black Excel means that blacks and Latinos are not subjected to systemic discrimination in this country. I know I’m just feeding the Reactionary Troll, here, but I’m going to say it anyway: You need to read some books or pay attention to some news or — and I know this sounds crazy but it might be the best way to learn — talk to some brown people.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    “Even recent events, such as Ferguson and the death of Trayvon Martin, give us a particularly vivid reminder that although we’ve come a long way on racial equality, we still have a long way to go.”

    Yes, but not in the way you are thinking.

    BTW: Google “academic overmatch” and consider the potential negative effects that may (or may not) engender. Focusing only on potential earning power (an imperfect measure), is it better to major in AA Studies at Yale or engineering (or other STEM/WISE) at Spelman or Rutgers?

  • theantiyale

    “the universities’ admissions policies seek to limit the number of admits in this minority group, the suits allege”
    Sounds like the shameful Yale quota on Jews.

    • Vaughn A. Carney, J.D., 1971

      What quota? Yale is 30% Jewish. Princeton is 7.5% Jewish. Look southward……

  • P. Nile Schwartz

    xx

  • P. Nile Schwartz

    x

  • P. Nile Schwartz

    ‘Affirmative action’ is just a nice way of referring to part of the federal government’s modern day euge nics movement.

    • Vaughn A. Carney, J.D., 1971

      No, it’s called leveling the playing field.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Everyone has opinions about who goes to the front of the line. Legacy, insider advocacy, donations, fashionable whims, and even pure merit all have their own emotional appeal. A position on the Admissions Committee would mean never having to buy your own lunch.

    Legal fees all around 🙂