Maintaining Diversity: Race as a Factor in College Admissions

Sreeshty Ray

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College admissions is a prime topic of interest in the minds of teenagers. Parents, schools, and students work relentlessly to piece together perfect applications in an increasingly competitive admissions process. But recently race, a factor my peers and I can’t control, has garnered national attention.
The use of race in admissions has been propelled into the spotlight by Fair Admissions v. Harvard, with Harvard being accused of holding higher standards for Asian applicants. As an Asian-American myself, the jarring headlines of this case mentioning possible discrimination initially led my reaction to be similar to those of critics of race as a factor in admissions. However, upon further evaluation of the case, the true and imperative reason for why Harvard and other colleges utilize race as a factor has become apparent.

It is true that for the majority of the 21st century Asian-American applicants have had the lowest admit rates out of any race at Harvard, which has been used as evidence of possible discrimination. However, while Asian-Americans represent only 5.6% of the U.S. population, they make up 22.9% of Harvard’s most recent class. Considering race also ensures that African Americans—a historically underrepresented and disadvantaged group—make up 15.2% of the class. Harvard’s decision to include race in a holistic process represents its goal to provide a “diverse campus environment,” not to discriminate against any particular race. Meanwhile, in UC Berkeley where race is not used in admissions, Asians constitute 41.9% of students. In turn, only 3.1% of students are African American. The use of race admissions by colleges is to ensure people of all ethnicities are fairly represented on campus. The importance of fostering a diverse learning environment is severely underrated. College is a place to learn and gain new perspectives—both in the lecture hall and on campus—which means talking to people of different backgrounds. We recognize the other life lessons college has to offer: independence, responsibility, and time-management. Why must diversity be any different?

History has shown that lack of discussion between groups of people leads to ignorance and ultimately conflict. In a modern America where politics are becoming more polarized than ever, race can divide us if we don’t try to learn about one another. Trying to eliminate race as a factor in admissions is an attempt to ignore our differences. Education is the solution to overcoming racial issues in America. No other place is more perfect than university for different people to come together to find common ground in an environment that promotes learning and new understanding. We can move forward only if we accept race as a part of the admissions process to promote diversity.