Fighting the wrong battle: the problems with preferential treatment

Various campus groups came together during fall quarter in the Price Center to rally in support of race-based preferences, asking for the reinstatement of the race factor in UC admissions policy in order to increase minority enrollment.

They were wrong in doing so.

Attempting to justify their position, the groups hung a banner making the self-contradictory claim “”Race must be a factor because racism is a factor.””

Racism, however, is not a factor in UC admissions policy because the current policy has been colorblind since the passage of Proposition 209. If race were again to become a factor in the admissions process, as they propose, then racism (defined as granting preferential treatment based solely on race) would “”be a factor.”” Racism cannot exist in a process in which race is not a consideration.

The approximately 85 participating students nodded knowingly when a speaker proclaimed that the voices of affirmative action supporters and people of color “”are not heard in class or administrative meetings.”” The speaker then refuted her own claim when she introduced Ross Frank of UCSD’s ethnic studies department — the chair of the administrative Committee of Affirmative Action and Diversity, which reports directly to the chancellor. With such a clear link to Chancellor Dynes, it is folly to argue that the administration ignores affirmative action supporters. Indeed, if any voices are ignored by the administration, they are the voices of affirmative action opponents.

As for the assertion that people of color are ignored on this campus, one may be directed to the Cross Cultural Center, the African American Student Union, MeCha, Kaibigang Philippino or one of the dozens of other ethnic and cultural clubs and organizations. The very existence of a pro-affirmative action rally, sponsored by the Student Affirmative Action Coalition (in which many cultural groups participate), proves that their voices are indeed heard loud and clear.

The voices of the crowd were definitely heard when they booed the words of one presenter who enumerated some of the criticisms made by those who oppose giving free rides to certain racial groups.

Among the offending statements: “”People say we must work harder!””

Heaven forbid anyone should engage in hard work.

Another orator strangely departed from the prevailing theme of “”hooray for affirmative action”” and instead condemned the Price Center’s architecture. He remarked that the Price Center’s layout does not promote community — nay, it promotes the twin evils of a totalitarian “”police state”” and capitalism. It is unfortunate that the speaker decided to lump capitalism, the free system under which he prospers, with a “”police state,”” a system that he has likely never experienced. If he wishes to experience a police state for himself, perhaps to strengthen his resolve against the evil capitalists who built the Price Center, he may want to visit one of Earth’s few remaining police states — Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea or China are excellent choices — which are, coincidentally, not capitalist.

It is an honorable goal to increase UCSD’s diversity. But racial preferences are not a fair means of accomplishing this. Granting preferential treatment to a certain racial group serves only to foster cynicism among members of other races. If any racial discord exists, such programs will only deepen the divide.

What should be done to increase diversity is community outreach and the expansion of the “”4 percent plan.””

Poverty-stricken schools with poor teachers are unsuitable learning environments because students are put at an academic disadvantage. Applicants from these schools don’t have the benefit of padded GPAs from AP courses or the help of S.A.T. preparation classes, so they can’t hope to compete against students in high-income neighborhoods. If the top 4 percent of every California high school were guaranteed admittance to a university, minority enrollment would increase without discriminating against anyone.

UC personnel should strive to make poor high school students aware of the possibility of UC enrollment. Many high-achieving, low-income minorities don’t bother to apply to the University of California believing they have no chance of acceptance or no hope of affording tuition. They may not know about the 4 percent plan, or they could be ignorant of the scholarships and financial aid available. Outreach to these high school students would increase the diversity of qualified UC applicants, thereby increasing the diversity of UC students.

The protesters at the rally had good intentions — increasing diversity and providing educational opportunities for minorities — but they were going about it the wrong way. Full of contradictions, half-truths and logical fallacies, the pro-affirmative action rally succeeded only in making the participants look naive and uninformed. Flinging haphazard condemnations at the administration, capitalism, the Price Center and hard work is not the way to convince everyone of affirmative action’s glory.