Preferential treatment no more
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 23, 2014
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 6-2 in Schuette v. BAMN to allow states to place bans on public universities taking race into account when considering admission of prospective students. Perhaps the most striking note about this decision was its margin. On what has been a controversial issue, the ruling was decisively in favor of allowing states to decide whether to keep or drop affirmative action policies. Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor predictably dissented in the ruling, but the surprise came when ideological lines broke and reliably liberal Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sided with the majority, hopefully representative of a shift in public opinion to one questioning affirmative action’s merits. After all, this was not by any means a ruling on whether or not affirmative action should be in place, but whether or not states have the constitutional right to determine for themselves if they want to allow affirmative action in their public universities. Nevertheless, Schuette v. BAMN revives the debate on affirmative action, a debate that is guaranteed to be lively in every state over the next couple years as they decide whether to enforce the policy or abandon it. Affirmative action is, for those who may be unaware, the policy that enforces race-based preferential treatment when considering admission to universities.
It is time that the nation escapes the antiquated and false idea upon which affirmative action was adopted: That different groups need a leg up on the competition to get ahead. Dropping preferential treatment not only makes the admission process fair, but also promotes a greater devotion to viewing all races as equal. The groups that benefited from it seldom opposed the message behind affirmative action, and the underlying patronization and belittlement was ignored by nearly everyone. The fact of the matter is that by giving preference to racial groups, the government was stating that those respective groups needed the extra help. The government was stating that those groups couldn’t get into universities on their own merits. Now, as more and more states opt to consider merit alone in the admissions process, that message will be no more. It will finally be believed that every student in universities got there on his or her own, as a result of his or her own academic excellence and volunteerism.
The Supreme Court’s decision has made it clear that states have the right to determine their tax-funded universities’ admissions process. Eight states have already adopted policies that only allow merit-based applications, with Missouri, Ohio and Utah soon to follow suit. Even the politically left-leaning state of California has considered adopting such a policy. This will promote a truer equality and a process where everyone has equal chances of getting admitted and no one gets an unfair advantage because of the circumstances into which they were born.
Perhaps surprisingly, this bears no weight in my views on scholarship and financial aid awards. I do hold a belief that circumstances should be taken into account when divvying out financial assistance. Doing so will allow those who literally cannot afford to attend college to do so, and enable upward economic mobility for all those in such circumstances. Even then, though, I believe that such assistance should be based strictly upon socioeconomic status, not race.
Regarding Schuette v. BAMN, it is my hope that the ruling allows for greater equality of opportunity throughout the nation, without trying to patronize certain groups and guarantee equal results.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.