Affirmative Action

Chelsea Giguere

Every good school rejects someone. Harvard admits only seven percent of its applicants, and it is not alone. Few colleges admit all of their applicants, and none of those who do have much prestige.
Admission to Yale requires beating out 92 percent of those who apply. For what reasons? It varies. It may be that applicants’ SAT scores were too low, or their essays were poorly crafted. Or it might be because their race or gender was already overrepresented on campus.
The college and grad school admissions processes are rough, rigorous and terrifying. Students work to make the best grades, win the most prestigious competitions and build the best resumé. They agonize over their applications and wait, terrified, to see if they have a future in their chosen field. They worry justly if their grades, accomplishments and test scores are up to par, but they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their ethnicity or gender will bar them from admittance to their chosen school.
Schools are always boasting about their diversity. Vassar College brags about its diversity when describing its students: “In recent freshman classes, students of color comprised 22-28 percent of matriculants. International students from 50 countries comprise eight percent of the student body.”
Surely, diversity is important. Where it is not important is in admission to school. I am not denying that diversity is a wonderful thing. I think it is. It offers varied perspectives and opportunities for broadening the mind. I just don’t think it should determine what kind of education you can get.
Though a person’s own history might affect academic ability, factors of gender, sexuality and race alone do not. Considering any of these things in admission to school says that they do affect academic ability. Such discrimination may be done in the name of diversity, but such policies discriminate against people who are like the majority of the population. Just as someone who is black does not deserve preferential or poor treatment because of his or her race, someone who is white also does not deserve such treatment.
To consider race or gender in a professional or academic setting is to be racist or sexist. Any time someone chooses you because of your race or because of your gender for a job, they are acting in a racist or sexist manner. This so-called “positive racism” is just as bad as common racism. Choosing someone for a job because they are a minority allows those choosing to delude themselves into thinking that they are doing something good.
The only place choosing based on race or gender for the sake of diversity is acceptable is in the mythical situation where candidates are exactly equal except one is an underrepresented minority or except one is female. This is an absurd situation that I cannot believe ever really occurs. Two “ideal” candidates do not exist.
Where there is a black candidate and a white candidate, one of the two of them must be more qualified, more interesting and a better fit for the school. Which candidate it is that fits better has nothing to do with race and everything to do with academic ability, personality and a whole host of other factors.
I firmly believe that all applicants to school should be considered first on academic merit. Name, gender, race and every other non-academic quality should be disregarded. After the pool has been limited on that basis, admissions offices should consider applicants based on personality, goals and extracurricular involvement, not race, gender or sexuality.