On Tuesday April 22, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Michigan policy that prohibits the inclusion of race and ethnicity in public universities’ admissions process. In other words, the Supreme Court has upheld a statewide ban on affirmative action. I am in favor of this ban not because it is “reverse-racism” or anything of that nature, but because affirmative policies are not as beneficial to minorities as many claim. In some cases, these policies can actually hurt minority students.
The initiative, known as Proposal 2, came about in response to the Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, which ruled that race is an appropriate factor to consider in law school admissions. In 2006, Proposal 2 was approved as an amendment to the Michigan State Constitution by 58 percent of Michigan’s voters. It resurfaced recently as Michigan residents called for the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of Proposal 2.
A number of justices expressed their fears regarding Proposal 2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed her belief that Proposal 2 subjected minority applicants to a burden not faced by their white counterparts. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another outspoken opponent of Proposal 2, stated that, “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat, but neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.”
Justice Ginsburg seems to be misguided. There is no other barrier being created; the only “selective barriers” are the admission requirements of Michigan’s public universities. If you apply and have the grades, you should be admitted. The argument that race-blind admissions policies foster racist admissions practices is simply flawed.
Additionally, “selective barriers” implies that being admitted to university is the only barrier minority students will face. Minority students admitted to a university that uses affirmative policies may have to deal with other students or even faculty questioning their merit.
There is also a facet of affirmative action called “the mismatch effect.” Richard Sanders was among the first to present the notion that affirmative policies place minorities into schools or jobs they are not prepared for, which sets them up for failure. Sanders argues that average students are being placed in the same classes as more competitive students, creating a cycle of self-doubt, decreased performance and potentially, dropping out altogether.
The definition of “minority” only seems to include black and Hispanic students; for example, The New York Times ran admissions statistics alongside its story about Proposal 2. The chart displays statistics for black and Hispanic students, but not Asian students. Asian-Americans are generally left out of the equation for affirmative action. Perhaps this is because Asian students tend to suffer the consequences of affirmative action.
Princeton University sociologists Thomas Espenshade, Chang Y. Chung and Joan Walling did a study comparing the effects of affirmative action on different racial groups at three highly selective universities. They found that while black students experienced a +230 point advantage in admissions, Asian students experienced a -50 disadvantage. Ultimately, the disparity in test scores reinforces the stereotypes affirmative action seeks to eliminate.
I find it unnerving that a number of our Supreme Court justices tout the benefits of affirmative action without mentioning the outcome of such policies. I will not condone a policy that negatively affects a large portion of the people it purports to help.
Until an affirmative action policy that truly benefits all minorities is developed and implemented, I will remain firmly camped on the same side of the fence as the majority of Michigan’s voters.