Affirmative action: The policy of stereotyping and its effects on the student populous

By Tyler Friederich

Throughout our lives, we have been lectured on the grave implications of stereotyping others before we actually get to know them. I have fallen victim to stereotyping and have been the subject of it as well.

Whether we accept them or not, stereotypes are undeniably unavoidable. Stereotyping has become so routine that it is almost impossible to discern whether or not we are even taking part in the act. For example, I worked at a movie theater for three years near East St. Louis. The weekends were interesting to say the least. On one occasion, I was working in the box office when a group of African-American girls attempted to buy tickets to an R-rated movie. I asked them for their IDs, then I was labeled a racist. Ironically, their assumption that I was stereotyping them based on their race was reversed when they did the same to me.

Yet, despite the qualms society possesses over stereotyping and discrimination, our own University (and most colleges, for that matter) takes part in it through affirmative action. Implemented as a means of reducing bias, eliminating prejudice, and embracing diversity, affirmative action aids the predicament of stereotyping because of its categorization of students based on race. But, while the notion of increasing diversity and eliminating inequity is appealing, affirmative action does not address the underlying problem.

I believe affirmative action is important and necessary for heavy recruitment of minorities, but the facts reveal that it is not achieving its desired outcome. For example, according to the 2005 UIUC Performance Report, the 2003 UIUC graduation rate of African American students was a paltry 61.9 percent compared to the University average of 80.4 percent, suggesting that the African American students were not prepared adequately in the first place. Most minority students are at a disadvantage from the beginning – only 20 percent of African American students are “college ready” out of high school, according to a study at the Manhattan Institute. Instead of actually leveling the playing field, affirmative action exacerbates the predicament by moving minority students to more selective colleges, thus causing dropout rates to increase.

Let’s set one thing straight – I do not think that I am better than any other person who is just as qualified as I am. But herein lies the problem. Affirmative action causes universities to choose students who simply may not be as qualified as other students, purely because of their race. I realize that minority students may have been discriminated against in the past, but the implementation of a policy that emphasizes race as a factor in the admissions process does not right any wrongs.

A Supreme Court decision in 2003 supported the legality of racial preferences at public universities. Racial preferences are in and of itself a form of discrimination – my point is that there should not be preferences at all. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring the quality of minority education during high school so that preferences would not be necessary.

In a debate in early 2006 held in the Illini Union, the head of the Educational Policy Studies Department, Dr. Anderson, asserted that men of all backgrounds have also gained from affirmative action as women have proven to be more qualified. I honestly do not care whether males have gained from it or not. It does not excuse the fact that the policy singles out members of a group.

The solution seems pretty simple to me – make two copies of the college application and have the applicant’s name, race, and sex blackened out on the second copy. Therefore, race and sex become a non-factor. Isn’t this what affirmative action was set out to accomplish? I realize this policy is not likely to be implemented, as it appears unfeasible because of interviews and oversight difficulties.

Minority enrollment is obviously critical in maintaining diversity on campus. But what good does affirmative action accomplish if nearly 40 percent of minorities do not graduate? It may help minorities get accepted but it clearly doesn’t help them succeed. Starting from the top will not aid those on the bottom.