Georgia loses discrimination
Once upon a time, there was a state university.
Concerned that their campus wouldn't be diverse enough, the regents tried
various things. Racial quotas were out, because the Supreme Court had abolished
them long ago.
The other option? Racial preferences, where
the status of an applicant as a "minority" registered as a "plus" in the
The method? Minorities received a bonus
added to their numerical ratings, before any admissions official ever saw
the applications. And so
the proceedings continued, until challenged
by three white females in 1999.
The case? Johnson v. Board of Regents of
University of Georgia.
In 1999, the University of Georgia applied
bonuses for being male and minority to applications, in a system where
a numeric score of 4.92
or better guaranteed admission. For being
male, students were given an additional 0.25 points; for being minority,
an extra 0.5. The white
females in question were at a serious
disadvantage to their male minority counterparts, having to score more
than 15 percent better on
school grades, SAT scores and miscellaneous
"plus" items to get into guaranteed admission.
Earlier this year, the 11th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals affirmed the victory of the women in their lawsuit, ruling
that the policy is
unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
Affirmative action policies, called "reverse
discrimination" by some, have been under fire since the 1978 Regents of
the University of
California v. Bakke decision, to 1996's
Hopwood v. Texas decision. Thanks to a series of conflicting decisions
in Michigan, the issue
seems to be heading back to the U.S. Supreme
Court for another round.
Not surprisingly, the question of whether
affirmative action is a good thing or not depends on whom you ask. Some
schools manage to do
quite well without quotas or programs
that resemble Georgia's, and UH is a fine example.
Others, like the University of Texas Law
School (the losers in the Hopwood decision), find their diversity slipping
away without the
preferential treatment in place.
The question of diversity isn't unique
to colleges. In the past, children have been bused all over cities, in
grade school through high school,
under the guise of improving "diversity"
in the school systems. Of course, even the busing programs haven't succeeded
entirely -- some of
these have been thrown out of courts as
In the Georgia case, the appeals court
hit an important concept: the difference between diversity as a whole and
At UH, we have an abundance of differences
in race, religion, political philosophies, age, gender, sexual orientation
and every other
interests. UH works hard to keep this
going and has its own public forums like The Daily Cougar as well as extremely
active student groups.
And, it manages everything without reducing
racial preferences to a numbers game.
So why did Georgia's policy fail? Because
it was exactly what affirmative action isn't supposed to be. Instead of
bringing in minority
students, it punished non-minorities.
It would have been equally unconstitutional if there had been a box for
"homosexual" in the admission
forms, or had there been differing bonus
amounts dependent on whether the applicant were Latino, Asian, black, caucasian
The program itself, by arbitrarily adding
points to an applicant's admission scores based on race and gender, lent
credence to the myth that
the minorities were inferior and needed
"help" to get into the college. Maybe now, Georgia can find a better way;
if it does, it should certainly
give UH a look to see how we manage it.
Ahlf, a senior electrical engineering major,
doesn't discriminate against e-mail sent