Affirmative Action: still fair and necessary

By on February 13, 2003

The Supreme Court recently heard a case involving the University of Michigan’s admissions policies.

In order to be considered for admission, a student needs to have 100 out of a possible 150 points.

One hundred points does not guarantee entrance, just consideration. The point system awards students for things like grades, extra curricular activities, alumni parents and race.

A good essay garners a prospective student one point. Being African-American, Asian, Latino or Guamanian garners a prospective student twenty points. Because of this, Caucasian students sued the school based on racial discrimination.

Surprisingly, this was the only lawsuit brought against the University of Michigan’s point system.

Students who are from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan got an automatic twenty points, as did scholarship-winning athletes. Just to clarify, one point for a good essay and sixty points for being a black, water polo scholarship athlete, from the Upper Peninsula.

Where are all the lawsuits from the non-athletic students who do not hail from northern Michigan? What about the fat kids from Rhode Island that did not get in? If I had an extra forty points, maybe I would have gotten in.

The reason un-athletic Rhode Islanders, like myself, did not sue is because geographic location and athletic ability are things you can change. You can move to Michigan and you can swim every day until you are a scholarship caliber water polo star. The fact remains that you cannot change your ethnic background or the color of your skin.

Racial diversity is extremely important. On the scholastic level, it makes a big difference.

Last week I bumped into Virginia Hughes from the Office of Multicultural Advancement at Juan Williams’ lecture. Williams was the keynote speaker for the school’s Black History Month Celebration.

Student attendance was paltry at best. Scratch that, student attendance was pitiful, but that is not the matter at hand. Hughes told me that in 1990 Quinnipiac College had fifteen students of color. Just thirteen years ago, and there were only fifteen minority students on campus! This made me rethink affirmative action.

While I am completely against rewarding or penalizing a person based on the color of his or her skin, I think we as a country and as an academic institution are a long way from a time where affirmative action is no longer necessary.

The stone cold fact is that the majority of minorities live in cities and the majority of whites live in the suburbs. The disparity between the educations is staggering. On an academic level, you cannot end affirmative action until the problem of urban education is resolved.

Affirmative action means a lot more than padding a student’s admission score. It also means recruiting in tough urban neighborhoods. It means hiring black and Latino professors. Affirmative action means creating a welcoming community to people of all races and creeds and orientations.

When John Lahey arrived in Hamden in 1988, he made a concerted effort to make Quinnipiac the place it is today. While the goal has not been fully reached, the right actions have been put into motion.

President Lahey takes a lot of heat from this publication, but he gets high marks for his initiatives and attitudes to make Quinnipiac University a more diverse place.

The University of Michigan has every right to award minorities twenty extra points on their admission’s score. Yes, a few minorities who happen to live in Greenwich will not need the extra help, but the black kid from Camden, New Jersey or East St. Louis, who worked all through high school to help pay the rent, does need the extra help.

It is not easy to learn how to play water polo when mom is in rehab and dad is jail. It is not easy to join the drama club when your school system cannot afford to pay for an arts program. It is not easy to study when you go to a funeral every week because another one of your friends from the block got shot.

As long as the savage inequalities between whites and minorities exist, affirmative action is necessary to level the playing field. America is about liberty and justice for all, not just Joe Suburb.

The Supreme Court should rule in favor of the University of Michigan, and you and I should be tutoring kids in the Hill section of New Haven.


About Eric Marrapodi