The University of California’s Dilemma: Diversity vs. Individual Merit
Mentor:Kurt Meyer, Professor of English, Irvine Valley College
Recent interest and sociological studies suggest that there exists a reverse discrimination against Asian-Americans in the University of California’s admission system. Historically, Asian-Americans have academically outperformed other races by a wide margin. In 2005, one higher education institution reported that Asian-American applicants’ median SAT scores were 50 points higher than Whites’, 140 points higher than Hispanics’, and 240 points higher than Blacks.’ While their presence in the UC system reflects their outstanding merits, it was not until Proposition 209 came in effect in 1998 that Asian-Americans numbers skyrocketed, now comprising 40% of the UC student population. Proposition 209 eliminates consideration on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in terms of employment and public education to prevent preferential treatment towards under-represented groups. Essentially, this policy banned “race-quotas” in admissions. UC Berkeley’s Asian population saw a 20% increase, with 46% of its student demographic now being Asian. Many UC officials who emphasize the necessity of diversity in the university claim that the proposition risks campus diversity as more culturally ambitious groups like Asian-Americans tend be better qualified academically than other minority groups. In defense of diversity, admissions officials handicap Asian-American enrollment in subtle ways, devaluing their individual merit and ultimately jeopardizing their admission. A study concludes that even with all other measurable qualities being equal, admission officials expect Asian-Americans to score 140 points higher on the SAT in order to be accepted. Is this act of reverse discrimination in the name of diversity justified? No. Promoting diversity through Affirmative Action at the expense of individuals of another group is contradictory. Conversely, can college admissions be purely based on individual merit? No. Ignoring socioeconomic inequities is similarly self-defeating. While neither response satisfactorily answers the question of diversity or individual merit, Proposition 209 and UC’s implementation of the policy is not the answer.