By Amber Randall
The debate over affirmative action came back to the spotlight last month when news broke over a Department of Justice memo reportedly seeking to examine an affirmative action lawsuit.
Civil Rights Reporter
Originally published in The Daily Caller News Foundation on September 4, 2017
With the debate once again spurred over whether affirmative action is beneficial to college students, The Daily Caller News Foundation talked to George Shen, founder of Asian Americans Against Affirmative Action, on three big issues with affirmative action, how they can be fixed, and how the Trump administration can help solve those problems.
A recent New York Times analysis suggested that affirmative action may not be working. Even with affirmative action, black and Latino students are more under-represented at the top universities and colleges in America than they were decades ago, the analysis revealed. Examining enrollment rates at 100 of the best colleges in America, TheNYT found that black students made up 6 percent of the student body at these schools, despite representing 15 percent of the student-age population.
Some of the biggest problems with affirmative action are that it uses race as a factor in college admissions rather than socioeconomic status, it seems to benefit the upper middle class, and it causes discrimination against other racial groups, Shen told TheDCNF.
Another issue is racial profiling and discrimination against certain groups while affirmative action favors other groups. This violates the U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause (Shen told TheDCNF). Our current policy favors certain segments of racial groups, not even the whole group affirmative action intends to help, such as the upper class of African American, wealthy African or Caribbean immigrants, [or] bi-racial kids of wealthy families.
Some studies suggest that Asian-American college applicants may face discrimination over college affirmative action policies. A 2009 study found that in order for Asian American students to be on equal footing as their peers, they had to score 140 more points than their white counterparts, 320 points higher than Hispanic students, and 450 points higher than Black students.
In order to fix this problem, Shen proposes that affirmative action becomes socioeconomic based, rather than using race as a measure.
If affirmative action intends to help the disadvantaged minorities who are really in need of help, it has to be socioeconomic based. Race has nothing to do with it. And race is a horrific proxy for the ones needing help. There are wealthy blacks, Latinos, Asians, whites and there are poor racial and ethnic groups across racial lines (Shen told TheDCNF). Colleges should use socioeconomic status as a proxy to help disadvantaged minority students or any students for that matter. There are poor white kids who need help as well.
Others have also proposed using income level as a way to help potential applicants, rather than using race when admitting students. One study released in 2013 suggested that using class in college admissions could help minority students and those who come from poverty more than race-based admission does.
Using additional socioeconomic factors in college admissions like wealth and concentrated poverty alongside parental income is the fair thing to do—and it also has a very large racial dividend. A careful 2014 simulation by Anthony Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, and Stephen Rose found that alternative strategies can produce as much or more racial and ethnic diversity than racial affirmative action currently does (a senior fellow at The Century Foundation noted).
Shen said the Trump administration could help fix affirmative action by calling on schools who use the policy to release their application data.
The Trump administration should ask all schools who are still using an affirmative action policy in their admissions to release all application information and make it public and allow an independent scrutiny of how they are using race data to make the freshman class. Transparency, accountability, and a well-informed general public are the best weapons to fight against this new form of discrimination and injustice (Shen said).