On October 15, 2018, the Massachusetts District Court began proceedings of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College regarding racial partiality in Harvard College’s admissions. It was found that admissions officers added or subtracted points to/from students’ SAT scores. African Americans roughly received an added 230 points, Hispanics an added 185 points, and Asians were subtracted 50 SAT points. The decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.
If the plaintiff’s allegations are true and individual applicants are advanced or restricted based on race, then Harvard’s race-based affirmative action should account for further diversities and complexities.
Firstly, affirmative action based on individual advantage (first generation, socioeconomic status, etc.) is needed, however race does not necessarily equate. Secondly, not only African Americans and Hispanics/Latinxs are underrepresented and thus deserve help in attaining higher education. There must be active recruitment, shoe-in programs and assistance for diverse individuals of all kinds (i.e. sexual orientation, sex/gender identity, ableness, etc.). Likewise, Native Americans consistently have the highest poverty rates over all other races in the U.S., however there has yet to be data to show that they receive approximately an additional 230 points on their SATs. In fact, they have been largely if not completely excluded in media coverage and even briefs regarding this case. In these ways, being African American and/or Hispanic/Latinx does not make necessarily one more deserving of score boosts than being of another underrepresented group regardless of stereotypes.
Thirdly, race is too complex an identity with which to categorize applicants, as Harvard’s affirmative action allegedly does. For instance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the poverty rate for Hispanics/Latinxs is 31.8 percent, which appropriately represents the averages for Guatemalans 31.2 percent, Mexicans 33.8 percent, Dominicans 33.3 percent, and Central Americans 26.8 percent overall. Whereas, South Americans have a 17 percent rate, almost half of the overall Hispanic poverty rate. Spaniards have a 16.9 percent rate, Chileans 10.9 percent, Colombians 13.8 percent, and other South Americans 14 percent. Likewise, Asian Americans have the highest economic inequality of all races, and 67.2 percent are foreign born; meaning that the race is more prepared for success much due to immigration vetting 19.4 percent of Hispanics/Latinxs are foreign and thus this notion do not comparatively apply), not because being Asian equates to inherent intelligence. The poverty rate for Asians is 12 percent, which is dwindled by the Chinese 9.5 percent, Japanese 4.5 percent, and Indians 7.6 percent. However, for Southeast Asians it is 21.4 percent, more so than the Southern American poverty rate and almost twice the Asian average. The Cambodian rate is 27.2%, Hmong (39.5%), Burmese (29.3%), and other Southeast Asian (22.9%). Even so, we cannot morally boost or sanction applicants based on ethnic subgroups, as there is great diversity within subgroups depending on location, age, parental information, life experiences, and more.
Because admissions is a zero sum game, the slim student percentages set aside for each minority race hurts unprivileged minorities and helps privileged ones. Those that are privileged are on average picked first, which fills the informal minority quotas and leaves little room for minorities in need. Sixty-seven percent of students come from the top 20 percent of families and the median familial income of students is $168,000. In addition, Harvard’s affirmative action does not foster upward mobility or truly help the impoverished; only 1.8 percent of students come from poor families but become rich adults, even though most Harvard students become adults in the top 30 percent.
Perhaps shifting to affirmative action based on school district (i.e. inner city vs. private) instead of race would help open opportunities to those truly in need. Another solution could be adding an application diversity section so that students can explain how they earned affirmative action based on diverse obstacles and/or their advocacy of diversity. We must uplift the impoverished and oppressed, but not by taking points from one applicant or giving to another due to their races.
Christine Savino is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.