Thursday, January 16, 2003

Checks and Balances

We were always taught in social studies/government/civics classes that the founding fathers of the United States wanted a system of checks and balances so that no one area of government was able to protrude too higly upon another area. The U.S. had three branches, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, the legislative, was of course to make laws, the executive to enforce them, and the judicial to intrepret the laws. With that stated, I have a problem for two reasons with the Bush administration's filing of a legal brief with the Supreme Court over affirmitive action practices at the University of Michigan. I know that Bush is not the first President to try and influence the court with his view in this manner (although I think his view should count no more than mine in this instance), but why is it appropriate for the executive to influence the Judicial branch's decision on this matter? The law is the law, and and I say, let the judicial branch do their job.

My second issue is that I think the Bush administration is wrong in not promoting diversity through affirmitive action programs in higher education. Bush, as the Washington Post reported, state that the two affirmative action methods used to make it easier for minority students to enter one UMICH are "divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution." (so was slavery and jim crow but that was around for a long time) Bush offered his most explicit articulation of his views on affirmative action, a major social policy tool that he had largely skirted since his presidential campaign. Reiterating his oft-stated assertion that he supports "diversity of all kinds," he went on to say, "the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed."

The New York Times has Bush saying "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."

Now I think a quota system is different than giving a leg up to disadvantaged races who are not represented on college campuses as they should be. Additionally, without affirmitive action practices, it will make it even harder to fix the lagging student populations of those groups who have historically been discriminated against in higher education. If giving a handout to these marginalzied groups does not happen at the university level, then there will be no way to change the cyclical problems that many minorities face with regards to poverty and social class. If education is the key, then why not use education to level the playing field. It is obvious that this levelling is not happening at a fast enough pace on the primary and secondary education levels, so then it must happen in the university level. You never hear anyone (at least in the government) talking about the problems of legacies and how familial connections or monetary donations often help bring people to certain universities. I wonder if George W. would have complained had he not been admitted to Yale or to Harvard Business School. He admittedly got C's at Yale. Was he qualified then to be at a top Business school? Was he given favor because of his class/familial status?

But I digress, the point is, as a result of the institutional racism in America there is a huge racial divide amongst the haves and the have nots. Simply put, to make it better, or to improve and lessen the gap, there has to be something in existence, like higher education, that will help level the playing field, and if giving some points when scaling certain underepresented minorites does the trick, well then by all means, I am for it.

Incidentally, I don't think South Asians, at most universities, are part of the underrepresented groups. In fact, and I think Dinesh D'Souza even cites this in his controversial book, it is harder for South Asians than most Caucasians many times, to be admitted to certain universities under some affirmitive action programs.


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