Around 12% of all college students are African American. If the student body at your college is only 1% African American it’s likely that there is some discrimination at work. This isn’t always the case, but it’s the principle that affirmative action was built on.
Affirmative action is the practice of giving preference to racial minorities or women in hiring or admissions. Affirmative action came to be due to a desire to bring minorities into institutions and professions that had traditionally been dominated by white males. This was after the civil rights movement of the 1960s and was an attempt to give minorities’ social and economic equality.
Racial quotas for public colleges were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of Bakke v. California. Since then, public colleges seeking to increase diversity have used other types of affirmative action. Private institutions have more freedom in their admissions practices. Most find that other affirmative action policies are a better way of achieving diversity than quotas because they allow for more fairness and greater flexibility.
In the decades since Bakke, affirmative action has been an ethical rather than a legal issue. As long as admission decisions did not employ strict racial quotas, colleges could choose to accept whomever they wanted. This is changing. California’s proposition 209, passed in 1996 with 54% of the popular vote. Proposition 209 prohibits any use of racial preferences in government hiring and public school admissions. Other states are considering similar legislation.
Since affirmative action is an ethical issue, the real question is whether or not affirmative action increases fairness in the admissions process. Additionally, the question is raised on what role diversity plays in both the academic mission of a university and in the quality of life on campus.
Affirmative action in college admissions is more popular among liberals than conservatives. Some of the arguments in favor of affirmative action include:
Some of the arguments against affirmative action include: