By Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D. and Andrew I. Fillat
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two more cases challenging the use of race as a criterion in college admissions, as has allegedly happened at Harvard University (a private institution) and the University of North Carolina (public). On the surface, the argument turns on whether the desire for a diverse student body trumps many laws and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit discrimination and guarantee equal protection to all. The question applies to virtually all universities because they are either public or accept government money.
The main argument in favor of discrimination in admissions is that diversity enhances the educational experience. But is it true that a student body needs to parallel, even roughly, the demographics of the general population to ensure that students are exposed to people from diverse backgrounds? In fact, we would argue that the very process of using affirmative action—read: “discrimination”—to enhance the numbers of designated identity groups can contribute to the tribalization of the student body rather than helping it cohere into a harmonious whole. Furthermore, even after receiving an affirmative action boost, minority students sufficiently qualified for a given university are already likely to have similar backgrounds to non-minority students, thus limiting the diversity of viewpoints and experiences that affirmative action allegedly enhances.