As a white man growing up in a Southern community, lecturer Tim Wise said that he enjoyed all of the special perks that “white privilege” offers, yet he still said he is an active supporter of affirmative action.
Wise addressed the undergraduate and Law School policies in the admissions lawsuits yesterday to roughly 75 students and members of the Ann Arbor community in Hutchins Hall.
Wise said there exist cases of white privilege embedded in the undergraduate admissions process.
“The point system to get into the undergraduate program is based on a 150-point scale. A minority student can get 20 points based on race,” Wise said. “However, while the preference for minorities are spelled out, the preferences for whites are invisible.”
According to Wise, these preferences are shown through the 10 points given to students who go to top-tier public and private schools that are predominately white. Eight points are also given to students who have taken Advanced Placement classes. Hispanic and black schools are one-third as likely to offer AP classes, he said. Geographical location is also a factor, with students coming from the predominately white Upper Peninsula getting 16 points.
“There are 58 to 60 points in the admissions process that are almost exclusive to whites, while there are only 20 exclusive points for minorities,” Wise said.
Wise said these points would continue to benefit whites regardless of whether or not affirmative action is turned down.
Wise said less qualified blacks did not take the place of more qualified whites. He added that, in the case of the lawsuit, even the plaintiffs concede that every person of color was fully qualified to be in the school.
Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the Law School’s admissions policies, does not stem from the point system but complaints that equally qualified minority students are being accepted at higher rates than equally qualified whites, Wise said.
“This assumption is based on skewed statistics. When the sample size is small anything in the space can skew the results,” Wise said.
He added that at the highest achievement level with GPA and LSATs there might be one minority applicant and 151 whites. If that one minority applicant is accepted, that is a 100 percent minority acceptance rate, while if only 140 whites get accepted, it looks like unfair preference when it may only be sample error, Wise said.
Engineering sophomore Tiffany Riley said Wise’s speech was very informative.
“It was more effective because someone white was saying it, it had more weight. I learned about the details of the affirmative action cases and how there weren’t minorities who were less qualified getting in over white people,” Riley said.
Rackham student Matthew Walker said he was glad to have attended the event.
“In the last six months I have been wavering about whether I agree with affirmative action because I only heard the diversity argument. This argument is weak and prone to be inconsistent, but Mr. Wise really advanced the injustice argument. That’s where the strength lies in justifying affirmative action,” Walker said.