Affirmative Action

Race a Poor Criterion for University Admissions



The University of Georgia is applying for a Supreme Court appeal against the Aug. 27 Federal Court of Appeals ruling baring them from granting preference in admissions to minority students. The Peach-State public university admitted about 10 percent of its students on the basis of race, who would not have otherwise had sufficient test scores and grades to gain admission.

The University of Georgia views giving preference to non-white applicants as essential in maintaining a diverse student body, but the panel of federal court judges concluded that accepting more minority students does not necessarily improve diversity and is also unconstitutional. A diverse student body is an important aspect of any institution of higher learning, but Georgia's methodology for achieving diversity is greatly flawed. This university, and others with similar policies, should not use skin color to determine admissions.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines diverse as "different in character or quality; not of the same kind; not alike in nature or qualities." Race does not determine an individual's character, nor does it imply different personal characteristics, aside from the color of one's skin. A white student and a black student from the same or similar locations, schools and financial status are not necessarily more diverse than two black students or two white students in the same situation.

Some of the things that might better qualify a student as unique include: fluency in a secondary language, such as sign language; an uncommon hobby, like an interest in horticulture; a musical talent such as mixing records; or having lived in sparsely populated or culture-rich areas such as a Native American reservation.

If such a deep consideration of individuals is too tedious for a large state university, a more diverse student body could be achieved by selecting students who were born or lived outside of the United States, or simply outside of the state. Students could be intentionally admitted from a broad range of economic levels, and recruited from private, public, parochial and charter schools. Greater diversity could also be achieved by admitting students from a wide range of cities, suburbs and rural areas - all without the unnecessary consideration of race - which are readily discernible, but not necessarily definitive, personal characteristics.

It is shocking and unacceptable for institutions of higher education to participate in racial discrimination. Georgia should not seek another appeal in this case, but should rather assume a color-blind admissions policy, judging people, in the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." If an in-depth character study is not practically feasible, Georgia can strive to achieve the worthy goal of campus diversity by selecting applicants from a broad range of social, economic, educational and geographic backgrounds.