Affirmative Action Is an Issue Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

This is a particular problem at the nation's colleges and universities. This has become so much of an issue that law suits and verdicts have been handed down in some states.

One of the most famous cases to date involved the University of Michigan's undergraduate and law school policies. These cases are Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger. In 1997, Jennifer Gratz, a white woman, sued the University of Michigan undergraduate college because she was not admitted even though several black students with lower test scores and grades were granted admission. During the same year, Barbara Grutter, also a white woman, filed suit against the Law School for the same reasons.

In 2003 the cases were heard together at the Supreme Court. The court ruled that policies that take race into consideration are allowable under the constitution. The court explains that states have an interest in guaranteeing that there is a certain amount of diversity in the student body of a public university. In addition "The Court also ruled that the undergraduate admissions policy was not narrowly enough tailored to withstand strict scrutiny, whereas the law school's more individualized policy was sufficiently narrowly tailored. Subsequent to the ruling, the University of Michigan changed the practices for admission to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to individualize the process (Crosby et al., 2006)."

Indeed there is a very real sentiment that affirmative action is nothing more than reverse discrimination Tien (1997) explains "Critics of continuing race or ethnicity as a consideration in student admissions argue that affirmative action unfairly discriminates against white and Asian-American applicants who worked hard in high school and received top grades.

They further maintain that it no longer is needed to provide opportunities." This argument is certainly merited. After all, there are many students who are not underrepresented minorities who have excellent academic records and they have worked hard towards such achievements. These individuals feel as though affirmative action negates their hard work and allows students who did not work as hard to gain admission to institutions of higher learning even though their academic backgrounds do not merit such admissions.

Encourages Minority Mediocrity and a sense that achievement is Unearned

Another disadvantage associated with affirmative action is the idea that it causes minorities to settle for mediocrity. Many experts beelive that affirmative action helps to perpetuate stereotypes and makes minorities underachievers. This concept is explained by Richard Sander in his famous study entitled "A Systematic Analysis of Affrimative action in American Law Schools." In this study Sanders (2005) argues that affirmative action actually reduces the number of Black Lawyers. Among other conclusions the study found that

"Black students as a whole are at a substantial academic disadvantage when they attend schools that used preferences to admit them. As a consequence, they perform poorly as a group throughout law school. The median GPA of all black students at the end of the first year of law school lies roughly at the sixth percentile of the white grade distribution…close to half of black students end up in the bottom tenth of their classes. This performance gap is entirely attributable to preferences; none of it seems to be attributable to race per se (Sanders, 2005)."

The study also found that the high number of black students that recive low grades in law school leads to higher attrition rates for black students. In fact the author points out that black students who enter law school are 135% more likely than their white counterparts to drop out of law school. The author contends that one of the reasons for such poor performance amongst African-Americans is associated with the caliber of schools that some Black students are admitted into. The author contends that many black law students could easily graduate from less prestigious schools. However as a result of affirmative action, many black students are admitted to law schools at which they are not academically competitive instead of entering law schools that are consistent with their test scores and academic achievements. If more black students would attend schools that match their academic performances, graduation rates amongst black students would increase. The author asserts that "this is the effect of high attrition among the five or six hundred academically weak black students admitted to the low-prestige law schools. But again, virtually all of the black-white gap seems attributable to preferences; virtually none of it seems attributable to race or to any correlate of race (such as income) (Sander, 2005)."

Finally the author argues that when blacks have low grades in law school the effect on bar performance (Sander, 2005). The author explains that potential black lawyers are six times as likely as whites to fail the state bar exams following multiple efforts (Sander, 2005). The author explains that these differences are correlated to admissions preferences. In addition 50% of the black-white bar passage disparity is attributed to the effects of black students that have good credentials getting low grades at extremely prestigious law schools. Another 25% is a result of low-prestige law schools admitting blacks with lower credentials than any of the other students in the law school (Sander, 2005).

Creating Greater Racial Tension

Another disadvantage of affirmative action is that it has created a great deal of racial tension on college campuses and in the workplace. It is not uncommon to go to a college campus and see students protesting for or against affirmative action (Rankin & Reason 2005). In some cases campuses have actually been split amongst racial and ideological lines as a result of the affirmative action debate (Saenz, 2007). These tensions are also present in the workplace. Such tensions were discussed by Motileng, et al. (2006) in Black middle managers' experience of affirmative action in a media company. This particular article discussed affirmative action in South Africa. The author found that many of the black managers faced some tension while carrying out their jobs because of how other perceived affirmative action policies.

Affirmative action in the future

The literature review has thus far focused on the current debates over affirmative action, however it is important to examine how affirmative action policies may be implemented in the future. At the current time there is some desire to see affirmative action policies abandoned because the society we live in is post-racial. One the one hand, there have been substantial advances as it relates to gender and racial equalities and as such affirmative action is no longer necessary. On the other hand even though advances have been made there is still a great deal of racism and sexism that exist in society. With these things understood there seems to be no consensus on how to create equality for groups that have been discriminated against. Both opponents and proponents of affirmative action seem to agree that such policies only serve as a Band-Aid on a severe wound. Although this wound was created in the past it will continue to fester well into the future if it is not confronted soon. Many agree that the real problems lie in the inequalities that exist in the education system prior to college admission.

Underrepresented minorities are often unprepared to compete with peers because of the inadequate nature of the education system in certain communities. The real remedy would be to revamp the education system so that people would have access to the same quality of education. When this becomes a priority people from different backgrounds will have the capacity to enter college and the workforce under equal conditions. However, because this is not the case affirmative action policies will continue to be a debated issue well into the future.

The research also indicates that although the University of Michigan affirmed the constitutionality of affirmative action, it also caused the schools to revamp its preference policies for undergraduates. According to Moran (2006)

"In the wake of the Michigan decisions, the National Association of Scholars, the Center for Equal Opportunity, and the Center for Individual Rights began collecting information on policies and practices at state universities that arguably violate the narrow tailoring requirement.199 Based on this fact finding, the Center

for Equal Opportunity filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights regarding state-run programs that are racially exclusive, such as minorities-only scholarships, internships, and summer activities.200 in general, colleges and universities have responded by opening up these programs to students of all races.201 Ironically, as a result of these challenges, race-conscious programs are increasingly shifting in the direction of race-neutral ones, even though the Court endorsed the legitimacy of affirmative action (Moran, 2006)."

An era of race neutral policies may be prevalent in the future, particularly if lawsuits continue to occur.


Overall the literature review explained what affirmation is and the advantages and disadvantages of affirmative action policies. The research also focused on what can be done in the future…

Cite This Thesis:

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