UC school system debates the use of affirmative action

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UC school system debates the use of affirmative action

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In 1997, California made history by becoming the first state to ban the use of race as a basis for college admission. Now, 17 years later, it almost became the first state to re-establish affirmative action policies.

This past January, members of the California Senate voted to pass Constitutional Amendment No. 5, which attempted to repeal the parts of Proposition 209 that allow University of California schools to remain race-blind. Even though the amendment was eventually withdrawn, the debate around this issue has not settled down.

Supporters of this amendment argue that it would allow schools to create a more diverse student body, but instead, affirmative action limits diversity to physical appearance and actually increases racial gaps.

“Diversity is about bringing together people who see the world in unique ways,” said Early College senior Kristen Witkemper. “Race is a component, but so (is) socioeconomic status, upbringing and countless other factors.”

Understanding the perspective of someone who holds opposing political views, practices a different religion, or comes from another geographic region can be just as valuable as interacting with people from other races and creates true diversity.

The problem is that using race as a main factor in admissions will not ensure that diversity occurs beyond physical appearances. In fact, it allows universities to appear as though they care about diversity without pressuring them to enforce it. They can simply refer to broad statistics, like the fact that 10 percent of their student population is African American to seem like they are making a difference.

“It is not just about recruiting underrepresented students and making sure we can count a diversity of groups, but that we are really open, supportive and embracing to all students,” said Director for Diversity Training and Development Jorge Zeballos.

Many systems that use race as a factor in admissions fail to even assure the acceptance of racial differences.

Some researchers, like co-authors of “Mismatch,” Richard Sanders and Stuart Taylor Jr., have found that affirmative action policies increase gaps in academic achievement because they place students at schools for which are unprepared.

“Scholarly research has shown that much of the self-segregation of black and white students at universities results from the racial gaps in academic achievement,” said Taylor in an email interview. “Partly because the gaps foster stereotypes and resentments, and partly because students tend to become friends with others who are roughly similar in their academic achievements.”

In order to bridge this gap that often occurs, people should focus more on improving the quality of K–12 education for disadvantaged students. That way, they will be more competitive in college admissions without an extra boost from affirmative action.

Along with improving the quality of K–12 education, University of California schools also found more short-term solutions to creating diversity after Proposition 209 was passed.

Some of these solutions included reducing the use of legacy and standardized testing in admissions and creating programs that aided students suffering from poverty. These solutions helped improve social mobility and allowed admission officers to focus on criteria that included more of their personal story.

Hopefully, affirmative action will affirm more than just quotas and foster diversity in the future.

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