Students discussed and debated their views on affirmative action at a forum on the topic last Thursday as part of the “What Do You Think?” forum series hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA).
Paul Harris, senior political science major, and Dan McElwee, senior history major, debated their opinions on affirmative action and answered questions from the audience. While Harris supports affirmative action, McElwee is against it.
“Those who tell you that racism is gone are delusional,” Harris said.
He said that affirmative action is necessary for minorities to have equal opportunities because racism and discrimination still exist.
McElwee felt merit is more important than ethnicity in college admissions. He mentioned the Brown v. Board of Education case, the 1964 Equal Rights Amendment and the banning of the Jim Crow laws in supporting his case.
“Affirmative action makes you question the value of others, not on merit, but racial terms,” McElwee said.
McElwee supported the fact that colleges want a more diverse campus, but said he is against using affirmative action to create more diversity.
“We are individuals and that’s what creates diversity,” McElwee said. “Diversity comes from individuals, not from their ethnicity.”
Both debators suggested a colorblind system to improve the way minorities are viewed.
“To make policies colorblind as of now, it would essentially freeze-frame society as it is,” Harris said. “We would need to address issues within the system.”
McElwee said that he would put an end to the system entirely. Those who succeeded in their given environment and worked hard have earned their right to be selected to be part of a college community, he said.
“I cannot see how placing greater value on a certain individual, not because of (his or her) SAT scores, not because of (his or her) entrance essay, not because of GPA, not because of extracurricular activities, but simply because an ethnic group achieves this goal of color blindness,” McElwee said.
An audience member argued that affirmative action and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) have given her an opportunity to live up to her capabilities at the College.
She said that if she did not truly belong at the College, then her GPA would reflect that, noting that those affirmative action students who do not belong will not be able to stay in college because of a poor GPA.
Another audience member argued against affirmative action. The student, a Caucasian female who has lived in Trenton, said she felt she worked hard even though she was in an inner city environment.
She worked three jobs in order to attend an SAT prep course to get into a good school and pay for college. She felt that she was at a disadvantage because minorities who had poorer grades and SAT scores than her were accepted into schools like Columbia University and Princeton University while she was rejected.
Harris noted in an interview following the debate the many ethicities represented in the audience.
“Our debate was productive, but in a sense, it wasn’t productive because we did not come to a conclusion,” Harris said. “I don’t think we ever will.”