Affirmative action in action

Posted February 7, 2011 By Cynthia Hernandez

President Lyndon B. Johnson once stated, “In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope … But freedom is not enough.

“You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, you are free to compete with all the others and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”

Affirmative action has since been a part of the social atmosphere protecting minorities.

There is much controversy surrounding affirmative action because some skeptics state that it is unfair and unconstitutional, but advocates believe that affirmative action is an opportunity for minorities to compete on an equal playing field.

In the United States, affirmative action primarily focuses on access to education, especially in regard to admissions to colleges and universities.

Admission councils take race, ethnicity and social class among transcripts and letters of recommendation into consideration when shaping their admitted class.

Admission councils have many characteristics to consider when selecting who to accept and who to reject, and this has produced heated debates.

There are many students who excel in academics, extracurricular activities and go beyond what is expected in order to set themselves apart from the hundreds of other applicants who are fighting for the same seat.

What many overachieving applicants fail to realize, however, is that having the best grades and best letters of recommendation do not secure an acceptance letter.

Ronald Dworkin, in his book “Why Bakke Has No Case,” stated that no college applicant has a right to expect that a university will design its admissions policies in a way that prizes any particular set of qualities.

This is exemplifying that being admitted to a university is not necessarily an honor given to reward superior merit.

Instead, it can be seen as a manner to advance the mission by which each university stands.

I stand by affirmative action simply because it allows individual universities to have their own independent mission statement and select students that they believe will succeed in their schools.

There is also more to debate than just affirmative action. Some schools utilize a point system and the students who achieve a certain number of points get admitted.

Yes, minority students do receive points for being students of color and although that seems to be unfair, it is not.

Recruited athletes and legacy students receive more points than academic-based students receive.

For example, former President George W. Bush received many legacy points and was admitted to Yale University despite his poor academic record.

Moreover, research has indicated that as many as 15 percent of freshmen students who are enrolled at some of America’s most selective colleges are wealthy, white teens who have failed to meet their institutions’ minimum admissions standards. However, they still outnumber students who benefit from affirmative action.

I have kept all of this (affirmative action and its effects and implications) in mind as I prepare for graduate school.

The pressure, excitement and anxiety that comes along with the uncertainty of not knowing if you will be admitted to your dream school is nerve-wracking.

To alleviate some of the uncertainty, it is important to note that admission is not necessarily based on having the best academic record, but other characteristics that you bring to the table as well.

*Posted on