4A - Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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JOSEPH LICHTERMAN and ADRIENNE ROBERTS ANDREW WEINER
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Affrm the future
College admission systems need a makeover
While students learn critical thinking skills in college class-
rooms, sometimes lessons learned outside the classroom are
just as important. College allows students from all walks of
life to participate in an arena in which their ideas and interests are broad-
ened by interactions with the larger campus community. This can best
be accomplished when that community is diverse in as many aspects as
possible. Affirmative action creates a diverse campus population while
providing underprivileged students and underrepresented minorities a
chance to partake in higher education for themselves. While affirmative
action currently does benefit individuals and society as a whole, the sys-
tem should encompass other factors in addition to race. While race still
should be considered in college admission systems, socio-economic status
and access to quality education should be more proactively emphasized.
Simply a band-aid
WASHINGTON, D.C. -
The dueling protest-
ers stood next to each
other on the
steps of the U.S.
He was one guy
versus 600 -
but Sarah want-
ed him to go.
why don't you
just leave?" she MELANIE
asked, clutching KRUVELIS
an "Equality for
All" sign in her
hand - one ofhundreds inthe crowd.
"What, free speech is only for you
guys?" the man replied. He held a
sign too. But unlike Sarah, his sign
read a little different than everyone
else's: "Affirmative action is dis-
crimination." And unlike Sarah, he
Sarah turned away from her
group and stared at the guy point-
blank. "Don't you get it?" she said.
"Why do you think you don't have a
group with you today? Why do you
think you're alone?"
And there it was - the admission.
The admission of the rally's mental-
ity, this collective understanding
that if you weren't with us, you were
against us. And boy, were you wrong.
As the crowd grew outside of the
court's arguments for Fisher v. Uni-
versity of Texas, the case that may
end affirmative action outright,
it became increasingly clear that
there was simply no room for doubt.
The speakers got louder. The crowd
became more intense. But while the
chants of "Diversity works!" flooded
the intersection of First Street and
Maryland Avenue, you still have to
wonder: is the question "Does diver-
sity work?" what we really should be
asking? Or are we missing the point?
Like 21 percent of Americans,
according to a Rasmussen poll, I
found myself uncomfortably divided
on affirmative action. On one hand,
I wanted diversity - and not just
because college admissions essays
made me write about it until my
fingers fell off. After four years of
the same people in the same school
in the same town, I wanted to meet
people that were just a little differ-
ent.than the average white guy in
Royal Oak, Mich. And the University
seemed to care about that.
But on the other hand, I wasn't
sure if giving preference to some
people over others was the best way
to ensure a heterogeneous campus.
Fifty-five percent of Americans
oppose affirmative action accord-
ing to the same poll. It didn't seem
sustainable. Something about giv-
ing some preference to applicants
- whether it was for their race,
alumni connections, gender, what
have you - well, it felt incomplete.
Arbitrary, even - I mean, how do
you decide how many theoretic
points you get for playing the cello
versus being born in Hamtramck?
At its most basic, theoretic center,
it's a complicated pursuit. But it
seemed like we could do better.
And yet, at the rally, the discus-
sion never went there. Dozens of
speakers made their way to the podi-
um, singing the praises of diversity.
And it is absolutely worthy of praise.
The Supreme Court knows it, calling
diversity a "compelling interest" for
schools. University administrators
know it, devoting offices to oversee
its maintenance. Whether diversity
is important is not the question. But
somehow questioning the efficacy
of affirmative action, a policy that
hasn't uniformly helped low-income
students, is equated with holding an
And it's not just an anti-diversity
agenda. When speakers approached
the subject of "the other" - those
who weren't in full support of affir-
mative action - the rhetoric often
turned red. Backward, Bible-beltian
red, in fact. "There are some that say
that affirmative action is a form of
reverse discrimination," said Brent
Wilkes, national executive director
of the League of United Latin Amer-
ican Citizens. "But you know what
those people support?voter ID laws.
Stop and frisk. The idea that only the
'47 percent' can move up."
Well, not necessarily. If the
three separate cases the court has
reviewed are any indication, affir-
mative action isn't exactly the easi-
est issue to tackle. A question that
requires such a comprehensive
understanding ofhistorical and phil-
osophical equality warrants more
thought than just guessing what
Republican presidential nominee
Mitt Romney would think and stick-
ing with that. For once, this isn't an
issue of red state v. blue state. So why
do we have to try to make it one?
Ensuring diversity in education
is an issue that is - and should be
- supported, regardless of political
ideology. Doubting the means cur-
rently used to reach this diversity,
however, is not the same as question-
ing the aims. Our current method,
namely, affirmative action, is just a
band-aid. Getting underprivileged
students into college - yes, it's
important. But it's not just aboutget-
ting them there.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments
on Wednesday in Fisher v. University of
Texas. A white student, Abigail Fisher, claims
the school denied her admission as a result of
its affirmative action system. According to the
plaintiff, in Texas there are two types of affir-
mative action at play. The first awards the top
10 percent of every high school with automat-
ic admission to the University and the second
gives a small advantage to students of racial
minorities who weren't in the top 10 percent.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 landmark
case that involved the University of Michigan,
the court ruled that race could be used as part
of a holistic approach to admissions. In Fisher,
the justices will decide what, if any, role race
can play in admission decisions.
Race is not the only factor for a diverse college
campus, and it therefore should not be as highly
valued as socio-economic status and access to
quality education when making admission deci-
sions. The current system of affirmative action
limitsthe scope ofthe social good it could create.
While it's important to have a racially diverse
student body, it's also important to give under-
privileged students a chance to attend higher
education institutions. Affirmative action sys-
tems should also take economic background
stronglyinto account alongwith other factors.
Michigan has a long history with affirma-
tive action. Most recently, in 2006 Proposition
2 canceled the Supreme Court's Grutter rul-
ing by banning universities from considering
either race or gender when deciding admis-
sions. With many Michigan school districts
failing, it's important the University do its best
to allow socio-economic and racial minorities a
place duringthe admissionsprocess. The prob-
lem with the current system is that universi-
ties may admit minority students over students
with economic or educational disadvantages.
With about 80 percent of students coming
from households that make over $100,000,
diversity among students at the University is
not as prevalent as often advertised.
In 2003, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor wrote in the majority opinion for
the Grutter decision, "We expect that 25 years
from now, the use of racial preferences will
no longer be necessary to further the interest
that we approve today." In 2028, hopefully we
will reach that point. However, today, there are
many social issues, both historical and current,
that must still be considered. Affirmative action
is the best option for the nation in order to reach
a just admissions process that furthers society
and educational institutions themselves. But
this process will only be fair if it considers all
disadvantaged applicants, and while race is
certainly a factor, it does not begin to convey
the inherent problems that disadvantaged stu-
dents face when applyingto college.
action is just one
It's about making sure they come
back for a second year. It's about
ensuring they make the grade. It's
about going back to elementary
schools and making sure kids learn
the multiplication table before they
leave. If we're trying to get at the root
of resolving educational disparities
once and for all, we've got to stop just
chopping away at the branches. All
we're left with is a pile of sticks, an
embarrassingly obvious metaphor
and a perpetually broken system.
When the Court announces its
decision in the spring, the court is
likely to rule in favor of Ms. Fisher,
meaning a restructuring or even the
destruction of affirmative action
programs. But this doesn't neces-
sitate the death of diversity. Affir-
mative action is just one possible
solution, one that has divided the
country for reasons beyond politics-
as-usual. It's time to consider alter-
natives. It won't be a jurisprudential
cakewalk (much to Justice Antonin
Scalia's disappointment). But hell,
affirmative action hasn't been either.
And unlike the Grutter decision,
maybe this time it won't come with
a 25-year sell-by date.
-Melanie Kruvelis can be reached
at email@example.com. Follow her
on twitter at @internetmelanie.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Eli Cahan, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis,
Patrick Maillet, Harsha Nahata, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth, Gus Turner
Forever under construction
Jn 1992, President Bill Clinton famously
asserted that he "didn't inhale" nor had
he ever "broken a state law." By 2006,
not only was it known that
then first-time presidential
candidate Barack Obama had
inhaled, but that he had done
"maybe a little blow" too. In
2032, when most of us will
have surpassed the minimum
age to become president, and
are therefore qualified to hold SARAH
an important position in pub- ROHAN
lie office, I wonder what type
of personal inquiries people
will be making of our presidential candidates
- if any.
You see, when we are 40 years old, the land-
scape of those considered "qualified" to hold
important political positions will look very dif-
ferent than itdoes today, and certainly different
than it did in 1992. And this will likely be the
result of social media like Facebook and Twit-
ter, which not only expose, but also record and
preserve the often unwise antics of our youth.
There are more than 1-billion Facebook
monthly active users worldwide, 54 percent
of whom are under the age of 45. I'm confi-
dent that this percentage will grow, with more
young users creating profiles every day.
I've used Facebook for more than five years
before recently deleting it. Every single mes-
sage exchange, wall-to-wall conversation and
uploaded photo will be preserved on the web-
site whether I like it or not unless I go through
the process of deleting my account. This reality
applies to me and the 845-million other Face-
book users today.
When Ithink ofthe controversial statements
or past actions which are regularly entreated to
question the credibility of a political candidate,
I cringe to think of what could be used against
me or my peers in the future.
Because in the future, the allegations of
underage drinking or drug use won't be specu-
lative, they'll be concrete - in the Facebook
pictures which show our underage friend
drinking at a house party, in the conversation
with a college buddy where drug use is con-
firmed and in the offensive status we posted
at 3 a.m. one regrettable Thursday night. Even
if we attempt to delete the incriminating evi-
dence, there's always a risk that someone saved
them. And even if we deactivate our Facebook,
the account still remains intact in case we ever
change our minds.
While considering how Facebook mightalter
the field of future politics, it would be wrong
to ignore Twitter, which has fewer users than
Facebook - about 127 million - but remains
a ubiquitous engine in conveying our personal
thoughts or feelings. Twitter offers its users a
platform to express their views no matter how
vulgar, flawed, insignificant or regrettable they
may be - in 140 characters or less, of course.
And, like Facebook, Twitter canbe a dangerous
instrument of exposure and preservation.
In fact, Twitter has already proven instru-
mental in ruiningthe political career of at least
one politician, former Congressman Anthony
Weiner, and further injuring Sarah Palin's
political reputation. Even unintentional tweets
can cause controversy, such as when an account
linked to the National Rifle Association tweet-
ed, "Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday!
Weekend plans?"- the morning after the Auro-
ra, Col. shootingtook place this August.
If educated adults are making career-alter-
ing mistakes on social media sites, it's hard to
imagine the mistakes an unwitting teenager
makes on those same platforms - mistakes
which may very well come back to haunt them.
However, as unsettling as it is to know that
every thoughtless remark or action we've made
is preserved in virtual writing forever, we may
all take solace in one fact: each of our peers is in
the very same boat as we are.
By 2032, political figures most likely won't
come under fire for allegations of adolescent
law-breaking or politically incorrect state-
ments because I honestly don'tthink most of us
will judge the credentials of our policymakers
on the negligent behavior oftheir youth.
That's not to say that we shouldn't hold our
nation's leaders to a high degree of responsible
behavior. However, since we've grown up as
the "social-media generation," we're wholly
familiar with, if not already numb to, the types
of irresponsible behavior that might discredit a
Despite the possibility that our expectations
of leaders by 2032 may be different than they
are currently, it remains important to expect
our leaders to display exemplary behavior in
the public eye, which starts with us displaying
that same behavior today. So fine, I'll take that
-Sarah Rohan can be reached.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - "Equal
Justice Under Law," says the veil -
more specifically, the canvas - that
obscures the U.S. Supreme Court
from public view. The canvas is part
of a "Marble Restoration Project"
that will soon restore the court's
faded fagade to its former glory. It
features a gigantic, life-size replica
of the court printed across it, from
seam to shining seam. From a dis-
tance, it almost looks like the real
On Oct. 10, the justices sat
behind the veil to hear both sides
of the Fisher v. University of Texas
case, punctuating the argument
with snarky interruptions. Most
were directed at the University of
Texas's embattled legal counsel,
Gregory M. Garre.
"Did they require everybody to
check a box or do they have some-
body figure out, 'Oh, this personlooks
1/32nd Hispanic and that's enough?"'
snarled Justice Antonin Scalia.
He's asking Garre about the sys-
tem usedby Texas college students to
self-identify race, which is, as it turns
out, a woefully inadequate way to
defend the effectiveness of the state's
affirmative action program.
Poor Garre - when he could get
a word in edgewise - had an even
tougher time nailing down the ETA
of his defendants' runaway train.
The end-goal of affirmative action
in Texas? The legal jargon used in
the court was "critical mass." It
refers to that glorious moment in
America's future - the Holy Grail
of integration - when minorities
are present in such "high numbers"
at universities that they no longer
contend with "racial isolation."
And Chief Justice John Roberts
brought the issue to its tipping
point within the first half-hour.
"What is the critical mass of
African Americans and Hispanics
at the university that you are work-
ing toward?" he asked Garre.
After a drawn-out, throaty gulp
you could hardly stage in Holly-
wood, Garre replied.
"Your Honor, we don't have one."
How can empirical terms like
"justice" and "the law" coex-
ist with a policy that aims to fix a
longstanding problem, but throws
around abstractions like "critical
mass" when proposing a solution?
Shorthand answer - they can't.
The rally in front of the court's
looming canvas didn't do much to
elucidate the issue further. Speak-
er after speaker used the term
"diversity" so liberally it may as
well have been a layman's buzz-
word for critical mass.
As the rally progressed in con-
junction with the proceedings in
the Court, I started to seriously
consider the possibility that the
whole affair was an exercise in
willed ignorance, a way for the
middle-aged and educated peo-
ple to pat themselves on the back
for finding a way to feign effort
without actually exerting any.
After all, Fisher's lawyer, Bert
Rein, made the valid point that
Texas's 10-percent plan - meant
to encourage diversity by draw-
ing from the top 10 percent of all
Texas public secondary schools -
simply encourages a system of de
facto segregation without fixing
the real problem.
The real problem starts way
A study cited by the conserva-
tive Heritage Foundation shows
that - even though educational
expenditures on elementary and
secondary school education have
increased 128 percent since 1970
when adjusted for inflation - "aca-
demic research has consistently
shown that increased spending
does not correlate with education-
al gains." So increased spending
on education doesn't work.
Dare I say that education doesn't
start in school, but at home?
But I don't need to rely on the
force of my own opinion. Sociolo-
gist Paul Amato from Pennsylvania
State University attributes the lack
of educational progress over the
past four decades to the breakdown
of the nuclear family.
As a social liberal, his figures left
me stricken with a case of cogni-
tive dissonance, but dammit, he's
right - across the board, children
in two-parent households are "less
disruptive," "have higher scores in
science and math" and "are more
likely to be engaged in their school-
work than peers in other family
structures." Furthermore, the ben-
efits of two-parent households on
"nine-year-olds' science and math
achievement appears to be cross-
national." Amato, for one, thinks
"the most profound change in the
American family" since 1970 has
been "the decline in the share of
children growing up in households
with biological parents."
Is it too inconvenient, too con-
servative for me to suggest that,
perhaps, the two-parent families
may be on to something here?
Like the hardworking men
and women who sweat over the
bottom-up reconstruction of the
Supreme Court's massive face,
advocates of racial and socioeco-
nomic equality, parents included,
would better serve their cause by
starting at the bottom, prepping
kids for college education before
their first glimpse of campus. Oth-
erwise, we'll spend the coming
decades staring at a pretty canvas,
superimposing the ugly scaffolds
of the longest construction project
Timothy Rabb is the
co-editorial page editor.