The debate over race-based admission standards is a difficult one that has valid arguments on both sides.
The University of Michigan Law School was ordered by a U.S. District Court judge to stop using race as a factor in judging applicants for admission. Judge Bernard Friedman said the schools claim of using race as a factor to make the student population more diverse is not a compelling state interest. The university is planning on appealing the decision.
In December, the U.S. District Court ruled that U-Ms undergraduate admissions policy, used since 1999, is a constitutional way to achieve diversity. The system assigns points for academic and nonacademic factors. Students can get points for being related to a U-M alumni, for being from Michigan or for being an underrepresented minority.
The same ruling declared the policy used by the university from 1995-98 was unconstitutional because of its quota-like reservation of spots for minorities.
While the ruling confirms the law schools policy is unconstitutional, it is important to remember policies aimed at increasing diversity are mandatory. Diversity in schools, universities and workplaces is necessary and something worthy of breaking the rules.
Policies like those at U-M can help minorities overcome difficulties in their situations by giving them a boost. Minorities who come from schools that receive less funding than predominately white districts and come from economic disadvantage could benefit from being given a helping hand. There may be factors that disadvantage people because of their race that could be overcome by being given priority.
Helping minorities get into college or get started in a career can help them advance in socioeconomic status. Giving individual minorities the chance to improve their situations can help the group as a whole rise in standing, making these policies less necessary.
The manner in which U-M admits students should be used to help increase diversity so the programs are no longer needed. Ideally, these programs should function to phase themselves out.
Diversity in universities is essential to help students look at the world through different viewpoints and to prepare them for life in an increasingly diverse world. However, there are many issues brought on by these policies. While many people will benefit, others will be negatively effected.
Issues of reverse discrimination abound. Those who were denied admission because of race even though they had higher qualifications have the right to be upset.
The minorities who benefit also suffer in some ways. Minorities admitted to affirmative action universities or workplaces must constantly wonder if they were admitted on merit or on basis of race.
No system is perfect in the effort to increase diversity. Even though there are new problems created, efforts should still be made to increase diversity.
Reaching a diverse environment and fair mix of different people in universities and workplaces is a goal worth the problems incurred along the way.