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Affirmative Action is Not Enough

By Angie Gabeau, Crimson Opinion Writer
Angie Gabeau ’25, a Crimson Editorial Editor, lives in Winthrop House.

Everyone, especially at Harvard, is anticipating the results of this week’s Supreme Court case regarding affirmative action in Harvard’s admissions. In the months to come, everything could potentially change about the demographic of students in higher education. Students for Fair Admissions, the plantiff, is suing Harvard for alleged discrimination towards Asian American Students. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is currently partnering with many student organizations to influence the Court’s vote and strategize how to move forward after the outcome. And, this past weekend, Harvard students traveled to Washington D.C. to defend our current admissions system. Needless to say, this decision will affect millions across the country.

We should not take this Supreme Court decision lightly. If affirmative action is struck from college admissions, the composition of Black college students is projected to be cut by over 50 percent. A world without race-based, class-based, and location-based admissions is a regressive society. Diversity in college admissions needs to be prioritized.

Yet saving affirmative action is only part of the solution. Though it is obviously important for college admissions, I see it as only a band-aid to a much larger issue in American education.

Colleges are not the only academic spaces that lack diversity. The reason why we need affirmative action in college admissions is the same reason we need equity movements in high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and pre-schools. Some students are not granted the opportunity to seek higher education because they are deprived of adequate educational resources at a younger age.

If marginalized students received access to adequate resources before entering college, then affirmative action would be less significant in college admissions. Black students are twice as likely to go to high-poverty schools. Going from a school with minimal resources to a school with time-consuming course loads, extracurriculars, and more is unreasonable. Students who benefit from affirmative action, and are allowed to enter into these elite spaces, are granted access too late. There are students here that have to work twice as hard as students who went to elite and private middle schools and high schools because they had half the experience. They do this in sacrifice of their mental and physical health. Although colleges should continue to have race-conscious admissions and give under-resourced students a chance, they should not be forced to experience these opportunities under such daunting conditions.

Why should our schooling system start making sense at the college level? Private schools, which have the ability to apply affirmative action in their admissions, should be the first to tackle this issue — but often fail to do so. Phillips Academy in Andover, arguably the best private high school in America, has a student population that is less than 7 percent Black.

Although our current affirmative action system is not applicable to public schools, it is important to not forget those students either. Over 20 percent of Boston public school students do not graduate at all, but once you take a 30-minute drive to Wellesley, nearly every student in the town graduates. Almost 90 percent of students in Boston public schools are students of color, and in Wellesley nearly 70 percent of the student population is white. There are drastic differences between schools that are only 30 minutes away from each other.

We need to fight for diversity and inclusion amongst all students, especially those who don’t have access to privatized and elite schools. Schools can determine the fate and livelihood of the students who have little other choice but to enroll in them.

Our education system will remain broken if we don’t start paying proper attention and care to preschool students all the way up to students in higher education. Yes, we should be in support of keeping affirmative action here at Harvard and at other colleges and universities. But this is simply not enough. Affirmative action is a shallow solution to a much deeper issue in the American education system. We are failing a larger demographic of students who deserve the same educational opportunities as everyone else.

Angie Gabeau ’25, a Crimson Editorial Editor, lives in Winthrop House.

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