Affirmative action could be race based discrimination

This use of affirmative action may be considered race based discrimination. Photo by: Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

College admissions may be under investigation by the government for being racist towards white applicants, if they -indeed-  implement affirmative action.

Affirmative action is a policy that gives minority groups a leg up after suffering from discrimination in the past. the The New York Times got ahold of an internal announcement directed at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that called for lawyers to look into universities that seem to show favor to specific races.

The Times took this as an attack on universities that use affirmative action in their admissions policies. However, the DOJ said The New York Times report was inaccurate and the document was specific to an administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015.

“This Department of Justice has not received or issued any directive, memorandum, initiative, or policy related to university admissions in general,” Department of Justice Spokeswoman Sarah Flores said. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination.”

Even after this specification, President of the Center for Equal Opportunity Roger Clegg said he does not think the DOJ’s focus on one administrative complaint, ruled out the possibility of other universities going under investigation.

“I don’t interpret their statement on the limited scope of this memorandum as meaning that they are not going to bring other investigations,” Clegg said.

Georgia State Professor of Sociology James Ainsworth said he supports race-sensitive admissions policies, because students are likely to benefit from the exchange of ideas that would result from a diverse student body.     

“Minorities are more likely to take on leadership positions in communities that are made up of their racial group,” Ainsworth said. “White Harvard graduates were not going into predominantly black inner city neighborhoods and providing leadership. We continue to live in a segregated society and I think we all benefit when we have a diverse set of ideas represented in college classrooms.”

Ainsworth said admissions should take into account that minority students have had to discrimination that may have hindered their academic record.

“When you have a high school student who is black and has a solid academic record, if they did not have to deal with the racial discrimination that they have likely faced throughout their lives than they may have had an even better academic record,” Ainsworth said.  

The Supreme Court rulings have prohibited universities and colleges from setting quotas and point-systems based on race with regards to their admissions policies. In 2001, a case ruled that the University of Georgia (UGA) consideration of race was unconstitutional. Since then, institutions under the University System of Georgia (USG) have not used race as a factor in their admissions policies.

Georgia State has found alternative measures to promote diversity and close achievement gaps between racial categories within their student bodies. Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success Tim Renick said Georgia State’s admissions decisions are “blind with regard to race, gender, ethnicity and income level.”

“We treat all applications equally with regard to these factors,” Renick said. “We have a record sized freshman class, more than 3,800 students, entering this fall. They also represent our most diverse class ever.”

Renick said Georgia State’s rates of graduation are up 33 points for Hispanics, 31 points for African Americans, and 41 points for African-American males. Renick has attributed this success to adjusting the school’s teaching methods, tracking 800 academic risk factors for each and every one of its students and providing greater financial assistance to students.

Clegg said he didn’t support the Supreme Court’s decision because for him, race shouldn’t be considered in any case regarding college admissions.

“Anytime that you see race being used in a mechanical or heavy handed way there are likely to be problems with its legality,” Clegg said. “The studies that the Center of Equal Opportunity have done over the years indicate that lots of schools, when they consider race, give it enormous weight; it’s a huge factor in determining who gets in and who doesn’t get in.”