“(Sixty-seven percent) of Americans believe college applicants should be admitted solely based on merit, even if that results in few minorities being admitted, while 28 percent believe an applicant's racial and ethnic background should be taken into account to promote diversity on college campuses,” Gallup reported in new polling released Wednesday.
Gallup found responses varied significantly along racial lines. Whereas 75 percent of whites think college admission should be based solely on merit, that figure drops to 59 percent for Hispanics and 44 percent for blacks.
Two months ago, the New York Times hosted a “Room for Debate” forum about the utility of race-based college admissions. Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and an economics professor at Ohio University, wrote, “The ending of overt racial preferences in college admissions is overdue. Allowing things like skin color to largely determine admission decisions strikes me as morally suspect. It is unfair and wrong to accept a black child from a prosperous college-educated family with a $200,000 income while rejecting an equally qualified white person from a poor household with a $40,000 income where the parents never attended college. A color-blind admission policy accepting family economic circumstances as one criterion for admissions, however, is both fair and coincidentally promotes racial as well as economic diversity.”
Conversely, Columbia University law professor Patricia J. Williams professed an opinion diametrically opposed to Vedder’s: “It is as silly to argue that prejudice against African-Americans doesn’t exist beyond the wealth gap as it is to say that there is no glass ceiling for women, no backlash against Asians, no resentment of Jews, no harmful confusions about Islam. Our careful commitment to affirmative action — in law, in politics, in life — must be expanded not contracted.”