By Gene Lee and Tiffanie Young
Affirmative action has long been a subject of controversy andÂ debate. Those who support affirmative action say that it gives a fair chance to those from poor backgrounds and helps create a more diverse environment.
However, other people believe that using race as a criterion for hiring or accepting people is unconstitutional. Some criticize affirmative action for being a form of reverse discrimination against white males. A Chinese undergraduate student at Yale University, Jian Li, filed a civil rights complaint against Princeton stating that he had been rejected because of racial bias.
He based his argument on a study by two Princeton researchers, Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung, which claimed that ending affirmative action in university admissions would lead to a higher rate of acceptance for Asian-American students. The study states that âAsian applicants are the biggest winners if race is no longer considered in admissionsâ because Asians would take four out of five admissions spots that would otherwise be given to African-Americans and Latinos.
Based on data collected from three highly selective private research universities, the study claims that with affirmative action in effect, Asian Americans must score higher than any other minority group on SAT exams to be considered for an admissions seat. Students at Harvard-Westlake find themselves being tugged between two opposing points of view on the issue of affirmative action.
Wesley Yip â08 doesnât support affirmative action because âcolleges should be based on merit.â Yip notes that California has one of the largest Asian populations and many donât want to leave because it is cheaper, hence a lot of Asians, especially in California, apply to the UCs. On the other hand, Justin Sheng â07 approves of affirmative action âas long as thereâs a socio-economic divide between races.â
Some believe that affirmative action is a quick fix for a long-term problem.
Â âDiversity is more than the color of their skin,â Sammy McGowan â07 said. Improving public education and making it possible for inner-city programs to receive grants are two possible solutions, McGowan said.Though private universities continue to adopt affirmative action, four states, including California, have banned affirmative action in public institutions.
In 1996, Proposition 209, which stopped affirmative action in public institutions in California, was passed. The proposition was first introduced by then University of California Regent Ward Connerly after learning from data collected by a father of a rejected student that affirmative action kept out white and Asian students who had better grades and scores. The following year, the UC schools saw a significant drop in the enrollment of Latinos and African-Americans, but a rise in their graduation rates.
The number of admitted Asian Americans in UC Berkeley and UCLA rose by more than 300 between 1995 and 2003. Although in total the number of applications for all races increased from 1995 to 2003, the acceptance rates for Asian acceptances sometimes doubled or increased substantially while African-American and Latino acceptance rates barely increased, if at all.
Asian-Americans only make up 4.3% of the U.S. population, yet studies show that they make up around 23.7% of the population of the elite colleges.