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COLUMN

Selection Without Bias

Akshay Patil

As Campus Preview Weekend passes, we find ourselves flashing back to those carefree days of our senior year when all we did was sit by our mailboxes and wait for all those so-important letters that would decide the future of our education. I find it hard not to think about a sleeper issue that comes to mind whenever I think about admissions. It’s not something most people would consider a “major” issue, yet some of the most impassioned arguments I have ever seen have surrounded it. Although it is rarely in the forefront of our minds, affirmative action is one of the hot-button issues of our society.

I prefer not to hold prejudices against people, and I hope that no admissions office in the country (or in the world) holds against an individual the circumstances into which he was born. It is for that reason that I oppose institutions adopting the policy of affirmative action in any selection criteria.

Please, all those who get confused by how I can put those two sentences together in the same paragraph, read on.

I should define affirmative action, since there tend to be many different meanings for the term. Affirmative action is going into a decision-making process with an inherent positive (or negative, but one rarely sees that) bias towards for a particular gender, race, social group, etc.

I’ve had a girl politely dragged to her chair after spending two minutes telling me that I’m a traitor and a racist. Well, “telling” is such a harsh word, so let’s say “screaming” instead. I’ve seen people on the verge of tears arguing that affirmative action is the only way for some people to achieve the American Dream. I’ve had friends patiently explain to me, as if I had the intelligence of an umbrella, why I’m a retarded spoiled naive fool; despite all of this, I’ve still got to say setting affirmative action as a selection policy seems wrong to me.

Why? It’s reverse discrimination. It strikes me as hypocritical to demand equal treatment by society and then expect to be judged by different standards. These ideas inherently contradict themselves; by creating different standards, we deny equality. Even if the net result is an equality in outcome, this does not justify an inequality in opportunity.

What about groups that have been put at a disadvantage historically or socioeconomically? I don’t know; I honestly don’t know. The answer comes easy when confining the argument to college admissions -- the selectors should look at how well the person dealt with the challenges presented to them and take that into consideration when making their decision. Most colleges do this to begin with.

But what about struggles in the “real world?” I have no answer, only a semi-adequate idea that with work, inequalities should resolve themselves over time -- little comfort to those who do not receive from life what they are honestly entitled to.

Regardless of the temporary solutions offered through affirmative action, the greatest long-term ethical solution is to be totally objective in selection. Choose the best for the position; often those chosen will be the best qualified, and sometimes they will not be -- there are other factors to consider than obvious qualifications -- but blanket policies like affirmative action are not truly conducive to correction of societal problems. We dream of a day when we will be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. Affirmative action contradicts this dream.