Possible policy changes force colleges,public to think about race Race can be a subject that is hard to talk about, but it can also be approached from many different perspectives. The ways in which discrimination of the past and present are dealt with today can cause tension between different groups, but if they work well, they can also lead to students of all races and ethnicities being successful. Affirmative Action has been one approach to try and ease the tension and inequality; it uses race as a factor during the college admissions process. Since there is no explanation given for the rejection of their college applications, some non-minority students are saying that they were denied entrance because of their race. This means that it is not the minority groups, but students who are part of the majority, that are claiming discrimination. Texas student Abigail Fisher said in 2008 that she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of her non-minority status and is challenging Affirmative Action in the Supreme Court. However, the program has evolved since the 1960s when minority “quotas” were legal, says sociology teacher Patrick Schooley, so that race is now only one factor to be considered in the college admission process.
He says that this is a common misconception. “What were created in some situations were quotas, as far as hiring a certain number of women or minorities for open positions,” Schooley said. “And the courts ruled quotas unconstitutional because they’re preferential treatment, and that’s discriminatory.” The main goal of Affirmative Action was to create opportunities for groups that had been denied those opportunities in the past, but Schooley says some students feel as if they are being punished for the past. With this, Schooley points out another popular misconception: that Affirmative Action is to right wrongs between races. “I understand the frustration of the people that say it’s not people today that are discriminating, it was all back then, so why are people still being punished for past wrongs?’” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case anymore. We are forty plus years beyond the start of Affirmative Action, so I think it has evolved into something more than just that.” Spanish teacher Beth Jahns states similarly that she believes the treatment of race in our society has changed in the past 30 years. However, she also concedes that there are still problems with race in our society. “I used to teach in Warren Township,” she said. “A lot of those kids came from very difficult situations, and if there was an
African American student who was very bright and at the top of their class, the kids would kind of say things like ‘why are you trying to act white?’” Jahns said. This is where Affirmative Action comes back in. It allows race to be a criteria, and by association, allows colleges to equate success with all racial groups instead of just the majority. “You want to base things on merit, you want students to earn and be rewarded on their own merits, but in the same sense, you also want to make sure that all students have equal opportunities,” Schooley said. Jahns explains that sometimes, where people grow up can hold them back. “I think that for Hispanics, for African Americans that are living in Fishers, I think that they can just as easily be valedictorian of their class, whereas if they’re in a more urban community, that would be harder for them to do because of where they are and what surrounds them,” she said. Scholarships, then, bring support to the students that may not have the backing of their community. That is exactly the reason why private funders create scholarships like the AAHC Roger A. Sayles Scholarship Program and the Mexican Scholarship Fund-to support promising students. “We have just taken on a new action-
we’ve assigned a counselor a different group, a different heritage every month,” said guidance counselor Melanie Thomas. “We’re going to actually look for specific scholarships for various groups.” Students will keep working with their counselors to promote their futures in college, but for now, it is unclear exactly how the Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action will affect the college admission process. Schooley speculates. “If the Supreme Court rules against the University of Texas, I think what’s going to happen is all universities will have to again look at how they provide admissions, their process, and how they decide the level of diversity they want to create on campus, as well as how to go about doing that without violating the law or without discriminating against minority or non minority students.” he said. Supreme C o u r t Justice Samuel Alito, sixth from left, is the main opponent of Affirmative Action. MCT CAMPUS