Andrew Liu '25
In 2010, the US population was 4.8% Asian and 12.6% black. Contrast that to the class of 2010 at Harvard, being composed of 18% Asian and 10% black. This is the statistic that many who favor affirmative action look at. If we live in a world where there is no discrimination on the basis of race, then why do Asians have a higher percentage at Harvard compared to their percentage in the US population? Why do Black people have a lower percentage at Harvard compared to their percentage in the US population? This must be because of the previous bias, legacy applicants, or unconscious bias! Therefore, we must make sure that we represent the world we live in today by making sure that we have the same percentage of Asians at Harvard that we have in the US population and the same with Black students and overall African-American population.
The problem with that entire line of argument is that it is based on one wrong fundamental principle: in a world where there is no discrimination, the percentage of Asians at Harvard must equal the percentage of Asians in the US population. This is simply incorrect. The reason that this is the case is a long story, but it has nothing to do with race.
The SAT. Some love it, some hate it. Many studies have shown that the SAT is the best way to predict a student’s GPA in college and whether they will pass or fail. However, many other studies have linked the SAT to wealth, and more have linked it to race. For example, for the Asians who were accepted to Harvard, the average SAT per section was 767 (out of 800). The average for Black students was 704. In another study, researchers found that an Asian had to score 350 points higher than a Black candidate to get the same chance of admission. This is baloney in every sense of the word, hurting Asian applicants because Harvard only wants to accept a certain number of them.
Another reason that people wish to implement affirmative action and one that most point to is again to help those who are underprivileged, giving those kids a chance to lift them out of poverty and into a better life. This is a noble goal, but why do it using race? If you wish to bring up people out of poverty, use affirmative action based on income, not race. College admissions officers are very smart people, so if that was their goal they would have tried using income years ago, so why haven't they? Quite simply, their goal isn't to lift people out of poverty, it is to fill quotas, so they look good in diversity seminars.
So, should the supreme court ban the current practice used at Harvard and UNC? Short answer: Yes. Harvard and UNC are both guilty of Title VI regulations, as they discriminate against Asians in favor of blacks and Hispanics. Long answer: Also yes. Affirmative action hurts Asians by only comparing them to other Asians while hurting other minorities by assuming the only way to reverse systemic poverty is to throw underprepared students into difficult classes. Being racist to atone for racism in the past will not work. As Justice Roberts once said, “The only way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
So what is the admissions practice that a college utopia would have? I would have to fall back onto the university method proposed by one of my teachers. Imagine the perfect college where there is no admissions process, and everyone can come. Rigorous academics, good social life, everything you need. The catch is that if you flunk out, we keep your money. This achieves a student body that is the best of the best, by flunking out those who were not able to survive in that environment. So how can we fit this application style into Harvard and other elite schools? Well, we can. But what we can fit into elite schools is the goals of the admissions process, changing the priority to getting the best of the best. This is possible by basing the applicants almost only on merit, with some judgment rulings coming from the top. Applicants would be in a race against all the other applicants, not only their own race trying to get a higher SAT score, higher GPA, and better teacher recommendations. Of course, colleges will require legacy students and athletic scholarships, and I’m completely fine with that. However, race should have no part in college admissions.