The Affirmative Action And The Numerous Programs

For the past 40 years, the practice linked to it have been continually under scrutiny. By definition, Affirmative Action is an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; in other words it is an act of positive discrimination. As an outcome of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, these policies were put into place to “even the playing field” and to promote social equality for those who have been historically disadvantaged. Specifically it is aimed at minority groups and women that have been excluded from employment and the workplace.

Today, most job and school applications ask a person’s race, ethnic background, gender and veteran status and that can be directly linked to the process of Affirmative Action.

Looking back to 1965, 5% of undergraduate students, 1% of law students and 2% of medical students were African American. According to the National Center on Education Statistics, in 2007, 70% of white high school students graduated and immediately enrolled in college whereas 56% of African American graduates and 61% of hispanics.

There is continuous controversy over whether this policy is inconsistent with the principle of merit and in turn is reverse discrimination. The disagreement comes from both sides of the classes. The members of the protected classes, which Affirmative Action is aimed at, argue that they are believed to be less qualified and make society look down on them for being prefrientally treated.

While those non-protected members feel they are passed over in favor of less qualified, more diverse candidates. The landmark case in 1978, Regents of the University of California v.

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Bakke, upheld certain aspects of affirmative action while also rejecting other aspects. Specifically, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was violated however, using race as an admissions decision was constitutional when viewed in combination with several other admission criteria. Since that case we have continued to see more and more lawsuits against college admissions.

A more recent court case that is sure to make an impact on the view of affirmative action is SFFA vs. Harvard University. In November 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, also known as SFFA, filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, claiming that the University discriminates against Asian Americans. The aim of SFFA vs. Harvard University, is to validate that white applicants are given preferential treatment over Asian Americans. While this case isn’t Affirmative Action in itself, it is focusing on whether the Civil Rights Act has been violated due to discrimination. With both parties stating they will appeal to the Supreme Court, the outcome has the potential to change affirmative action and college admissions everywhere.

The two parties in this case are Harvard University as the defendant and Students for Fair Admissions as the plaintiff. The defendants will include various school administrators, with the plan of calling witnesses of Harvard alumni and students from different backgrounds. The SFFA represents a group of anonymous Asian Americans previously rejected from the university. Edward Blum, leader of the Project on Fair Representation, has taken the face of this trial to protect those who wish to stay anonymous. The plaintiff is arguing that University officials have been aware of the penalty placed on Asian Americans with their “personal rating” and in turn is discrimination against Asian Americans. The defendant has argued that all claims are unsupported and the admissions process has been previously upheld by the Supreme Court.

When applicants apply to Harvard they are assigned a “personal” rating based allegedly on information collected from various sources such as teacher and guidance-counselors. The four-point scale is “. Outstanding. Very Strong. Generally positive. Bland or somewhat negative or immature.” The evidence entered into court showed that Asian Americans in fact were scoring much lower on the “personal rating” and higher on academics and extracurriculars compared to white applicants. Adam Mortara, an attorney for SFFA, argued that University officials were aware of the penalty assigned to Asian American applicants based on Reports by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research.

Another smoking gun against Harvard University is their use of PSAT scores to recruit high-schoolers. Admissions documents revealed that white students received recruitment letters if they scored a 1310 or higher. Asian Americans received recruitment letters if they scored a 1350 for women, or 1380 for men. Harvard argued that their goal was to reach students where Harvard was not on their radar and they were looking for students from any background from “sparse country”. A study of enrollment trends for three selective schools, MIT, Harvard, and Caltech has been released by the Center for Equal Opportunity. MIT and Harvard both use racial reference during the admissions process while Caltech does not.

At Caltech Asian Americans make up more than 40% of seats in a class, in comparison they make up 26% at MIT and 17% at Harvard. Applicants are no less qualified at these schools than those in California and this can be directly connected with the color blind admissions process at Caltech. To continue research on preferential admissions two sociologists from Princeton, Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Radford, studied eight elite schools to determine how much better Asian Americans have to perform to be competitive. The conclusion was that Asian American applicants would need to score 140 points greater than white applicants on the SAT, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than black applicants. With all information taken into consideration SFFA has accused Harvard of racial balancing, with evidence proving that the same percentage of blacks, Hispanics, whites and Asian Americans are enrolled in each class.

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The Affirmative Action And The Numerous Programs. (2022, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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