January 24, 2003
celebrate oligaristy!

I know, it's oligarchy. There's a nice editorial in today's New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristoff called A Boy and His Benefits about affirmative action, meritocracy and diversity in university admissions procedures.

It all gets back to the current brouhaha surrounding UMich not accepting some white folks, who it seems are pretty sure they would have gotten in if the law school wasn't giving preferential treatment to black folks--and of course that President Bush is against "quotas" (which by the way, is not how admissions systems work. see the article for an idea of how it really does work) and therefore is on the side of the white folks in this case.

Affirmative action is a tough issue because it reflects the collision between two aspirations -- diversity and meritocracy -- all in the hyper-sensitive zone of race. But this spring as we debate the cases before the Supreme Court, it would be a mistake to consider preferences for blacks in isolation. How can we evaluate the justice of preferences that favor blacks without considering preferences that benefit whites (legacy), athletes (football players), the wealthy (children of donors), and farm kids from Oregon (me when I applied to colleges)?
Kristoff is talking about the point system that schools use for admissions here; i.e. you can also get points for being the son of an alumni (for example, if your father went to yale, you have a better chance to get in), or if you are in some way associated with the Unversity (for example, if you apply to Yale and your grandfather is on the Yale board of directors, you have a better chance of getting in), or if you come from a different part of the country (for example if you are from Texas and you apply to Yale, you have a better chance that a kid from Connecticut).

And this is sort of the point, beyond that affirmative action for all of its flaws is still most successful method of bringing African-Americans to economic and political equality with European-Americans, who by the way have and still do practiced their (our) own forms of affirmative action for centuries in this country.

Extra credit: What current United States President benefitted from Andover and Yale's point systems which not only help African American students get accepted at higher rates, but also mediocre students from Texas who only got SAT scores of 566/640 whose fathers are alumni and have grandfathers on the board? Explain how this does not constitute an unfair admissions policy, but allowing a degree of preference to the race of an applicant does.

Posted by illovich at January 24, 2003 10:33 AM
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