The Michigan Daily’s editorial (Re-affirm(ative action), 9/15/2011) argues that Proposition 2 violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, and your support for this claim is that race “plays a role in an applicant’s life.” But there are many things that play a role in an applicant’s life that are not considered in admissions decisions including sexual orientation, parents’ divorce, etc. A stronger argument would show that race not only plays a role in life but that this role warrants it special consideration for admissions decisions.

One might argue that race warrants special consideration because certain races are discriminated against socially. However, in my experience, a homosexual or obese applicant is as likely to have been discriminated against in a way that might affect high school performance similar to a minority applicant. Unless one thinks otherwise, admissions committees should not consider race without also considering other social factors.

A more compelling argument is that race warrants special consideration because of the enormous gaps in income and (especially) wealth between the races. An applicant from Flint, Mich. who has had poor housing, schooling and nutrition is certainly at a disadvantage compared to an applicant from Grosse Pointe, Mich. who has had private tutoring for the SAT. This disadvantage should be considered in admissions decisions. But the Flint applicant is not disadvantaged primarily because of her race, but because of her low wealth.

Affirmative action based not on race but on economic status would solve many problems. It would reduce racial tension. It would treat an impecunious white applicant from Flint and a wealthy black applicant from Grosse Pointe more equitably. The goal of increased racial diversity would be achieved, since non-whites are disproportionately from low-income communities. Employing this type of affirmative action would simultaneously achieve the diversity and equity that both sides of the debate desire.

Michael Showalter
LSA Senior

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