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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Letter: Affirmative action puts applicants on an unequal level


Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter in response to the recent editorial piece “Affirmative action offsets inequalities.” Firstly, the article misrepresents the opinions of the opponents of race-based affirmative action. The article states that opponents of affirmative action want admissions based solely on their achievements. This is inconsistent with the beliefs of many opponents of affirmative action, who believe that academic and extracurricular achievements are an important factor, but not the only ones to consider. More specifically, many opponents to affirmative action think that socioeconomic status should be a factor in admissions, as it is more difficult for people of less affluent backgrounds to have the same level of academic achievement.

The article pays insufficient attention to the most important factor in academic achievement, which is a socioeconomic status. The article claims that “black and Latino populations are underrepresented in higher education.” This claim is true but misleads people from the issue at the heart of opposition to affirmative action. People of lower socioeconomic status are underrepresented in the college graduates. Therefore, minorities, who make up a larger proportion of lower income households than they do the general population, are more likely to not have a college education. There is strong evidence, as is shown in Sean F. Reardon’s recent study “The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations,” to support that family income is a much better determinant of educational achievement than race. In other words, it is not their racial heritage that makes minorities less likely to get a college education, it is the fact that they are more likely to be of a lower socioeconomic status.

The arguments supporting affirmative action used in this article are highly flawed. The article claims that “removing affirmative action from the books will make college admissions more racially discriminatory, not less.” A policy that gives people a greater chance of getting admitted into college based on their racial heritage is a racially discriminatory policy. This is the very idea of institutionalized racism. The argument that affirmative action can help end institutionalized racism through a system of institutionalized racism is hypocritical and counterproductive.

Consider an example of two students who grew up next door to each other in a low income neighborhood: one is white and the other is black or Latino. Both are from single-parent families and live in a district known to have public schools well below average. They both have similar grades, test scores, and extracurricular achievements. In other words, aside from their race, they are very similar applicants. Opponents of affirmative action believe these students should not be given preferential treatment with respect to each other, but their backgrounds should be an important consideration when deciding between them and applicants from higher income neighborhoods with better quality schools. Opponents of affirmative action agree that we need to counter “the malevolent social forces affecting college admissions,” however, they also believe that these forces can be countered through policies which are not overtly racially discriminatory.

Judge Clarence Thomas, in his dissenting opinion of Grutter v. Bollinger, the case referenced in the article, states, “The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.” Thomas argues that even the very existence of race as a factor in admissions establishes a separation between Americans, imbuing negative and counterproductive attitudes concerning race.

Opponents of affirmative action do not believe that college admission should be based solely on achievement. They believe that college admission should be based on the level of achievement in the context of the environment in which it occurs. There is an achievement gap in the American education system that needs to be closed, and it is true that minorities are more likely to be on the losing end of this achievement gap. However, the way to solve this problem is not to give some students more opportunities based solely on their ethnic heritage. Rather, the solution is to give every student the same opportunity to succeed.

James Mashal is a sophomore majoring in Economics and Jacob Berger is a freshman majoring in Economics and Finance. Read the article on affirmative action written by David Ruiz at

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