Letters: Going to the root

In Matt Simmons’ enlightening column on affirmative action he wrote, “Nobody seems to mind that [admissions] preferences are given to veterans, legacies and athletes,” implying opponents of affirmative action are “simply hostile towards policies advancing minority interests.” However, his premise is flawed; I know that at least I object to any admissions criteria that are not based on merit. Being a member of a minority group or the child of a former student in no way indicates the merit of an applicant. These factors ought not to be included in any admissions criteria. By contrast, records of academic, athletic and social achievement – all indicators of merit – ought to be rewarded by admission to the University.

Matt Simmons correctly supports the University’s view that diversity among the student population is a good thing. Ensuring this diversity, however, does not justify compromising the meritocratic nature of the University. In an appropriately functioning society, student demographics generated from a merit-based admissions policy would closely mirror the demographics of the U.S. population because all students would have equal opportunity to be educated. Artificially forcing this condition to exist does not resolve social problems; it merely hides them.

The problem is that our society does not function appropriately and there are differences in the quality of education throughout the United States. Perhaps where Matt Simmons and I differ is in our resolution to this problem. While he supports the imposition of the lesser injustice of affirmative action to counter the greater injustice of educational inequality, I support directly fighting educational inequality by improving low-performing primary and secondary schools. Only by directly fighting educational inequality can we ensure all students have an equal chance at a bright future through admission to a University solidly committed to academic, athletic and social excellence.

Daniel J. Parente

senior in Engineering