Considering race in college admissions

By Fitzgerald Clark

Our esteemed President wishes the Supreme Court to overturn the consideration of race in college admissions because he considers it reverse discrimination. Several white students are suing the University of Michigan because it gives an extra consideration to certain minorities for the purpose of helping to ensure diversity on campus.

Does America stand in such peril for the danger done to our society by the apparently unwarranted acceptance of so many minority students at our great colleges and universities throughout the country that our President will get involved with this issue?

According to the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching’s website, only 8.9% of the students who attend the University of Michigan are black. The university uses a point system, whereby acquiring 150 points gains you entrance to this school. If you are a recognized minority, you are given 20 points toward your entrance. White students do not receive that particular, extra consideration.

For the concern that this is a quota system, let me quote University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman when she says, “And let’s set the record straight: We do not have – nor have we ever had – quotas or numerical targets in either the undergraduate or the law school admissions system. By far the overwhelming consideration is academic qualification.”

Although this consideration is given to Hispanics as well as Native Americans, let’s not pretend that it is not a black and white issue. When the commentators discuss it on television and the newspaper it is invariably about blacks and whites.

Extra consideration is not only going to minorities, but one can receive points for a variety of factors including: socioeconomic disadvantage, attendance at a predominantly minority high school, athletics, for Michigan residency, for residency in underrepresented Michigan counties, for residency in underrepresented states, for alumni relationships, or at the Provost’s discretion.

At universities across the country, applicants receive extra consideration for having a parental lineage at that university. Due to the racism in our nation’s past, very few African Americans can receive this special consideration. If we are truly concerned about making sure that only the best qualified applicants get accepted, then where is the hue and cry about undeserving entrants for all of these other reasons?

For those extra 20 points one can receive at the Provost’s discretion, I wonder who gets that extra consideration? Does it have to do with how much your parents contribute to the school, or whose family is widely known and friendly with administrators at Michigan?

Why is having 8.9% of the students at Michigan be African American considered a travesty of justice for white America? I know that some will say that it isn’t about the fact that some minorities are let in, but that they are admitted at the cost of better qualified white students.

The racism inherent in this argument is that all of the minorities admitted don’t deserve to be there because there are definitely more qualified white students. Such arguments really indict their proponents, but let’s move on.

It seems that the issue cannot really be about better qualified students losing out on a place in the class because if it were, then we should see a hue and cry being raised about all of the extra consideration. Some say that they oppose it on altruistic grounds, that constitutionally we cannot discriminate against a person because of race. The Supreme Court, however, has in the past allowed the consideration of race expressly because of the history of discrimination in this nation.

What is it about this particular consideration for minorities that has people up in arms?

Some feel that blacks in this country have come very far, that we do not need such considerations. Yes we have come very far. We have come so far that if you are black in this country, you are much more likely to be poor than whites, more likely to die at a younger age than whites and, unlike whites, more likely to be in prison than college if you are a black male.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that current illicit drug use for whites and blacks is almost identical, at 7.2% for whites and 7.4% for blacks. Yet in real terms, that correlates to about 15,217,045 white illicit drug users and about 2,561,502 black illicit drug users. They report that during 2001, there were a total of 1,586,902 drug abuse violations. Of these 1,089,900 drug abuse violations with race information, 64.2% were white and 34.5% were black.

Yet of the total of 24,255 Federal Defendants charged with a drug offense, only a quarter of these defendants were white (26%), nearly one third were black (30.5%), and the majority were Hispanic (43.1%)!

Such seeming extra consideration for the color of one’s skin doesn’t seem to merit much concern from our president. In our state prison systems 145,300 of the inmates for drug offenses are black, while only 58,200 are white. This makes no plausible sense without the realization that our criminal justice system does not escape the discrimination inherent in our society at large.

When I consider the above reality, and the fact that there are more African-American males in prison than in college, it seems obvious that it is so in large part because of the extra consideration the color of our skin has to play in the minds of law enforcement.

As such, having 8.9% of the students at the University of Michigan be black, and having this considered a threat to white America and an example of black privilege and reverse discrimination blows my mind. Can you really look yourself in the face and say that the President of the United States should concern himself with this “injustice”? The president should concern himself with addressing some of these other issues in this country and then we will have no need for extra consideration.

By Judith Jantz

The United States Supreme Court will begin its attempt to reconcile the issues surrounding Affirmative Action on Tuesday, April 1. This comes after years of public dissent, with citizens either wholeheartedly supporting or absolutely disagreeing with the policy.

It seems recently that our lawmakers are becoming less firm in their stance on the issue as well. A Federal judge told the University of Michigan that it was legal to use race to determine admissions to its undergraduate school in December of 2000.

Another Federal judge, in a different ruling, determined the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions policy unconstitutional in March of 2001.

These rulings were the first time America dealt with Affirmative Action in schools since a precedent was set in 1978, when it was ruled legal, and even crucial, at the University of California.

Over the past quarter of a century, this policy had become accepted, expected, and eventually almost taken for granted. Now we live in a different, and hopefully improved, America, and the policy, according to many people, requires some modification.

Therein lies the dilemma. The American people are at odds over the issue, and not necessarily just with one another. We are also at odds within ourselves, each personally unsure of how we feel about Affirmative Action or its purpose and use in today’s society.

One factor having a monstrous impact on individual opinions regarding Affirmative Action is ignorance and misinformation. A large number of FAU students I interviewed have only some semblance of an idea of what exactly the policy is and what it entails.

When asked to define Affirmative Action, Sari Scotland, a freshman living on the Boca Raton campus, best summed up the general consensus – “I really don’t know.”

The fact that Governor Jeb Bush abolished the use of Affirmative Action in Florida’s colleges and universities in February of 2000 was also something most students were not aware of when asked. Perhaps most college students are not up to date on the policy’s standing because it is of no concern to them anymore.

Nearly every student interviewed agreed that Affirmative Action was once critical in bettering the lives of young minorities and in maintaining diversity in America’s universities. However, they also conceded the policy is outdated and, at least in its current form, has no home in current society.

In fact, many students concur with Scotland when she says Affirmative Action is “in a way, reverse racism.” The percentage of students interviewed closely paralleled percentages found in a CNN poll of 81,304 online readers in February of this year. Of those readers, 18 percent were in favor of Affirmative Action being used in college admissions and 82 percent were against it.

Most students I spoke with, like Bryan Silver, 20, believe Affirmative Action “is successful in creating a culturally diverse atmosphere” but that it will not be missed in this state. “I don’t think its absence will have much of an effect. I think all people, regardless of race or gender, have a sense of pride, and that’s sufficient in helping them accomplish their college goals.”

Scotland, who is of mixed ethnicity but considers herself black, agrees that all high school students will now have to meet their potential because “now they have to meet college requirements, regardless.”

Scotland’s statement raises the question of whether the lack of Affirmative Action will require greater performance by students on the whole, and thus increase young people’s standard of education and success, or will long-dormant racist ideologies occasionally creep back into the admissions system, leaving minority hopefuls behind despite their accomplishments.

The overall opinion is that minorities have long been meeting the requirements of Florida schools, and that race is not a quality that is primarily judged over ability. Silver, a junior who says he described himself as Caucasian on his FAU application, says, “I think essays, community involvement, and GPA are considered above all else.”

Maybe we students are too optimistic and too confident in our society. Maybe we have personally been lucky enough to not see firsthand the examples of racism that do still occur, and thus believe they do not.

Perhaps we think Americans have come a long way, and opportunities do exist for anyone willing to reach for them. Perhaps we will someday be right.

Come April, we will watch the Supreme Court’s proceedings, as a school, a state, and a nation. We will watch history unfold in Michigan as Affirmative Action, and all that it creates for so many Americans there, is given new life or is taken away.