Early this week, UW-Madison fell under extreme scrutiny from a political think tank for its alleged discriminatory admissions practices, and in turn, aroused a legitimate fury in the campus community. The Center for Equal Opportunity—a Virginia-based conservative organization—released a report Monday night stating that, based on ACT and SAT test scores as well as class rank, UW-Madison enrollment rates significantly favor black and Hispanic applicants over white and Asian ones.
At first glance, the statistics appear alarming. Purporting admission rates favoring Hispanic and African American applicants over their white counterparts at odds ranging from 576-1 and 504-1, the study undoubtedly calls for closer examination. And after following the lawsuit, analyzing CEO's report, attending student rallies and observing Tuesday's debate, this Editorial Board has come to one final conclusion: CEO's study is bogus.
On top of the report's lack of prominent admission factors like personal statements, leadership positions, course schedules and recommendations, the organization misunderstands most collegiate admissions processes and the role of affirmative action in the first place.
CEO doesn't recognize that the world existing before color-blind applications sees race. And if its ultimate mission is to abolish affirmative action on college campuses across the nation then we believe its priorities are seriously out of order. Erasing racial identification on college applications ignores extenuating circumstances that many K-12 students face in their academic careers. It's an unfortunate reality that many students from minority backgrounds have fewer opportunities, most notably due to a severe lack of funding for education achievement programs, but it's important that universities recognize and address these barriers.
Yes, CEO's report presents data that supports its anti-affirmative action delegation, but touting this reverse discrimination ultimately has no merit. Saying that black and Hispanics have an advantage in application at UW-Madison solely because of affirmative action is like saying that a baseball team that loses 10-1 actually won because it scored in the ninth inning. This isn't to say that affirmative action doesn't have its flaws. Improvements can be made in any institution that directly involves diversity issues. And while we are open to the discussion, this board believes it is important to look beyond these problems and to assess why affirmative action needs to exist in the first place. If we truly want to see a world of equal opportunity then we need to start with reforms from the bottom up and that means dealing with inequality and disparity at the k-12 level. From there, universities like the UW need to focus on initiating more retention and support programs at the collegiate stage.
That said, we believe every student on this campus deserves to be here. No student should have to sit in class and wonder if their fellow peers are questioning their right to be studying beside them. Each and every student accepted to UW-Madison was accepted because of the hard work they exhibited in school and the barriers they overcame on their way to becoming a badger.
Attacking UW-Madison completely avoids the real problem of racial inequalities in education across the U.S. It's up to UW students, no matter his or her race to peacefully remind CEO to get its priorities straight.