College Girls on Affirmative Action

COLLEGE GIRLS DROP KNOWLEDGE ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Our history is filled with many years of racial, social, and economic oppression, and from these shameful practices of injustice, affirmative action programs were conceived. Affirmative action was a ruling made in the '60s out of the civil rights movement in an effort to give historically disadvantaged people, like women and minorities, equal access to higher education and employment opportunities through admissions and hiring policies, recruitment methods, and financial assistance — with the hopes that it would level the playing field and give them an equal chance to succeed.  Many applaud affirmative action programs because they have resulted in doubling or tripling the number of minority applications to higher education institutions and have made those institutions more representative of their community. Though there are some who argue that the policy is outdated and causes a form of reverse discrimination by favoring one group over another based on race. So we asked six college girls from Rutgers University what they thought about the controversial policy. Yvanna Sanit-Fort Senior at Rutgers University Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science Has affirmative action ever affected your life? “I never thought of affirmative action in the context of my life until the college application process. In high school, I worked my ass off, for lack of better words. I had above a 4.0 GPA, worked two jobs, and was the president or captain of multiple organizations. As a result, I was accepted into all seven colleges and universities I applied to. Afterward people started telling me that I only got into those schools because I was black, blatantly discounting all the hard work that I did. And this wasn’t from strangers — it was from my friends. So no, outside of people calling me a beneficiary of affirmative action, I have not been affected by it personally. There are a lot of deserving people who simply don't have the opportunity to do well; their circumstances bar them. So for someone who has done their best given their circumstances and still might not get to where they need to be because their school or socioeconomic status, affirmative action is absolutely crucial and absolutely necessary.” Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why? “Affirmative action is good because it gives people a chance, especially those who otherwise might not have one, a chance to succeed and an opportunity to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of their families. I highly doubt that there are scores of people being disadvantaged or not offered a chance because someone else was given one. At the end of the day, affirmative action does more good than harm, so it's better to have it.” Melanie Goulet Sophomore at Rutgers University Major: Marketing What are your thoughts on affirmative action? “I think affirmative action is important and we really need it. Although I don’t think I was ever discriminated against, I know people that have been, and it's heartbreaking and appalling to see that even in our world today — in 2016 — companies and even people still discriminate against minorities. At this point, we should have moved beyond that. However, I do believe it has gotten better and discrimination against minorities is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.” Has affirmative action ever affected your life?  “I don’t think is has affected my life in any way. I was ever denied anything because I’m a female, however, I do think that as a female I am at a disadvantage in some cases." Katie Park Senior at Rutgers University Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science  What are your thoughts on affirmative action? “As a Korean-­American woman, I don’t think affirmative action really worked in my favor when I was applying to college four years ago. Generally, affirmative action really applies to prospective black, Latino, and Native American students and tends to have no effect on statistically high­-performing Korean, Chinese, and Indian students. People tend to lump Asians as a group that performs academically well straight across the board, but that’s not really the case. The socioeconomic levels of Vietnamese, Hmong, and Pacific Islanders often aren’t a huge contrast to the socioeconomic levels of black and Latino students, so it’s actually a bit incorrect to assume that all Asian students have the academic upper hand in admissions. A lot of people tend to think affirmative action is some blanket policy, but it’s got a lot of levels, in my opinion.” Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why? “I don’t see affirmative action as the type of thing you support only if it advantages you — it’s got a larger mission in giving underrepresented and historically marginalized populations a chance, and everyone, in my opinion, should see the importance in that.” Vaishali Gauba Senior at Rutgers University Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Business Management Why is it important to have diversity on college campuses? “It's important to have diversity on college campuses because college is basically a model of the real world, and just like we need to thrive with people from all races, all genders, and all walks of life in the real world, we should be able to do that on a college campus. By being on a diverse campus I have learned things about other cultures through my own experience and have been able to rub off a little bit of my culture on my friends and acquaintances.” Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why? “I am not sure. It depends on which boat you are on. There is still discrimination when it comes to top roles in organizations. There are still not many minority CEOs and that needs to change. Since the time I've been in America, the conversation about affirmative action has slightly reduced, but discrimination cases haven't.” Kathalina Alonso Junior at Rutgers University Major: Linguistics and French     What are your thoughts on affirmative action? “I believe that affirmative action is a fair advantage for minorities like myself, specifically being a young Latina woman, a double minority. It's necessary given the fact that the country's largest population is white, heterosexual, male, etc. Affirmative action evens out playing fields while others think it unfair — the others being cookie-cutter candidates and privileged in some way for the workforce, school, and life. The policy is a deserved advantage for every kind of minority that exists today and will exist in the future. To quote a favorite show of mine, Broad City, ‘Statistically, we're headed toward an age where everybody's gonna be, like, caramel and queer,’ and I hope that comes true.” Why is it important to have diversity on college campuses? “Colleges, on a micro level, should prepare students for circumstances and environments on a macro level. Colleges should reflect the ‘real world’ and not coddle its students to have idealist, fairy-tale views. The reality is, the world is a tough and hard place. Diversity is all the flavors in the world and everyone should have a taste of it. What results are better people and a better world. Although it will take time to get there, it will happen." Mary Ellen Cagnassola Junior at Rutgers University Major: English and Journalism & Media Studies Has affirmative action ever affected your life? “I generally like to believe that most people are good deep down, and if they really, objectively understood affirmative action would have a change of opinion. For example, a comparison between my boyfriend and I serves as a good example of how certain people are systematically at a disadvantage while others have it a hell of a lot easier. I am a middle-class, white American whose family has been middle-class so long that I can't even definitively say what is my heritage. My parents both have bachelor's degrees. They were prepared emotionally, mentally, and financially for their children, who can, as a result, enjoy a college education and likely carry on those good ol' American middle-class traditions.  "My boyfriend is a first-generation Latino and the first of three children, which meant he was responsible for child care while his parents worked their asses off. While I enjoyed after-school activities, attentive teachers who practically forced me to do well, and a mother who worked part-time from home to raise me, my boyfriend had to come straight home after school and be an adult. There were no sports, no music lessons, no one making sure he was keeping up with the pace of the classroom or encouraging him to pursue his education, which was reflected by his grades. After considering these two sets of circumstances, is it really fair to judge my boyfriend and I by the same standards?” Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why? “Affirmative action is necessary because there are millions of people like this and millions more who have it even harder thanks to generations of discrimination, poverty, etc. It's not giving 'less qualified' people a free pass for having a certain skin color; it's a fair way of comparing people from diverse backgrounds and facilitating inclusion in a country that has a bad track record when it comes to treating everyone fairly under the law and otherwise — I'm looking at you, Jim Crow."

Our history is filled with many years of racial, social, and economic oppression, and from these shameful practices of injustice, affirmative action programs were conceived. Affirmative action was a ruling made in the '60s out of the civil rights movement in an effort to give historically disadvantaged people, like women and minorities, equal access to higher education and employment opportunities through admissions and hiring policies, recruitment methods, and financial assistance — with the hopes that it would level the playing field and give them an equal chance to succeed. 

Many applaud affirmative action programs because they have resulted in doubling or tripling the number of minority applications to higher education institutions and have made those institutions more representative of their community. Though there are some who argue that the policy is outdated and causes a form of reverse discrimination by favoring one group over another based on race. So we asked six college girls from Rutgers University what they thought about the controversial policy.

Yvanna Sanit-Fort
Senior at Rutgers University
Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science

Has affirmative action ever affected your life?

“I never thought of affirmative action in the context of my life until the college application process. In high school, I worked my ass off, for lack of better words. I had above a 4.0 GPA, worked two jobs, and was the president or captain of multiple organizations. As a result, I was accepted into all seven colleges and universities I applied to. Afterward people started telling me that I only got into those schools because I was black, blatantly discounting all the hard work that I did. And this wasn’t from strangers — it was from my friends. So no, outside of people calling me a beneficiary of affirmative action, I have not been affected by it personally. There are a lot of deserving people who simply don't have the opportunity to do well; their circumstances bar them. So for someone who has done their best given their circumstances and still might not get to where they need to be because their school or socioeconomic status, affirmative action is absolutely crucial and absolutely necessary.”

Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why?

“Affirmative action is good because it gives people a chance, especially those who otherwise might not have one, a chance to succeed and an opportunity to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of their families. I highly doubt that there are scores of people being disadvantaged or not offered a chance because someone else was given one. At the end of the day, affirmative action does more good than harm, so it's better to have it.”

Melanie Goulet
Sophomore at Rutgers University
Major: Marketing

What are your thoughts on affirmative action?

“I think affirmative action is important and we really need it. Although I don’t think I was ever discriminated against, I know people that have been, and it's heartbreaking and appalling to see that even in our world today — in 2016 — companies and even people still discriminate against minorities. At this point, we should have moved beyond that. However, I do believe it has gotten better and discrimination against minorities is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.”

Has affirmative action ever affected your life? 

“I don’t think is has affected my life in any way. I was ever denied anything because I’m a female, however, I do think that as a female I am at a disadvantage in some cases."

Katie Park
Senior at Rutgers University
Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science

 What are your thoughts on affirmative action?

“As a Korean-­American woman, I don’t think affirmative action really worked in my favor when I was applying to college four years ago. Generally, affirmative action really applies to prospective black, Latino, and Native American students and tends to have no effect on statistically high­-performing Korean, Chinese, and Indian students. People tend to lump Asians as a group that performs academically well straight across the board, but that’s not really the case. The socioeconomic levels of Vietnamese, Hmong, and Pacific Islanders often aren’t a huge contrast to the socioeconomic levels of black and Latino students, so it’s actually a bit incorrect to assume that all Asian students have the academic upper hand in admissions. A lot of people tend to think affirmative action is some blanket policy, but it’s got a lot of levels, in my opinion.”

Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why?

“I don’t see affirmative action as the type of thing you support only if it advantages you — it’s got a larger mission in giving underrepresented and historically marginalized populations a chance, and everyone, in my opinion, should see the importance in that.”

Vaishali Gauba
Senior at Rutgers University
Major: Journalism & Media Studies and Business Management

Why is it important to have diversity on college campuses?

“It's important to have diversity on college campuses because college is basically a model of the real world, and just like we need to thrive with people from all races, all genders, and all walks of life in the real world, we should be able to do that on a college campus. By being on a diverse campus I have learned things about other cultures through my own experience and have been able to rub off a little bit of my culture on my friends and acquaintances.”

Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why?

“I am not sure. It depends on which boat you are on. There is still discrimination when it comes to top roles in organizations. There are still not many minority CEOs and that needs to change. Since the time I've been in America, the conversation about affirmative action has slightly reduced, but discrimination cases haven't.”

Kathalina Alonso
Junior at Rutgers University
Major: Linguistics and French    

What are your thoughts on affirmative action?

“I believe that affirmative action is a fair advantage for minorities like myself, specifically being a young Latina woman, a double minority. It's necessary given the fact that the country's largest population is white, heterosexual, male, etc. Affirmative action evens out playing fields while others think it unfair — the others being cookie-cutter candidates and privileged in some way for the workforce, school, and life. The policy is a deserved advantage for every kind of minority that exists today and will exist in the future. To quote a favorite show of mine, Broad City, ‘Statistically, we're headed toward an age where everybody's gonna be, like, caramel and queer,’ and I hope that comes true.”

Why is it important to have diversity on college campuses?

“Colleges, on a micro level, should prepare students for circumstances and environments on a macro level. Colleges should reflect the ‘real world’ and not coddle its students to have idealist, fairy-tale views. The reality is, the world is a tough and hard place. Diversity is all the flavors in the world and everyone should have a taste of it. What results are better people and a better world. Although it will take time to get there, it will happen."

Mary Ellen Cagnassola
Junior at Rutgers University
Major: English and Journalism & Media Studies

Has affirmative action ever affected your life?

“I generally like to believe that most people are good deep down, and if they really, objectively understood affirmative action would have a change of opinion. For example, a comparison between my boyfriend and I serves as a good example of how certain people are systematically at a disadvantage while others have it a hell of a lot easier. I am a middle-class, white American whose family has been middle-class so long that I can't even definitively say what is my heritage. My parents both have bachelor's degrees. They were prepared emotionally, mentally, and financially for their children, who can, as a result, enjoy a college education and likely carry on those good ol' American middle-class traditions. 

"My boyfriend is a first-generation Latino and the first of three children, which meant he was responsible for child care while his parents worked their asses off. While I enjoyed after-school activities, attentive teachers who practically forced me to do well, and a mother who worked part-time from home to raise me, my boyfriend had to come straight home after school and be an adult. There were no sports, no music lessons, no one making sure he was keeping up with the pace of the classroom or encouraging him to pursue his education, which was reflected by his grades. After considering these two sets of circumstances, is it really fair to judge my boyfriend and I by the same standards?”

Do you think affirmative action is good or bad, why?

“Affirmative action is necessary because there are millions of people like this and millions more who have it even harder thanks to generations of discrimination, poverty, etc. It's not giving 'less qualified' people a free pass for having a certain skin color; it's a fair way of comparing people from diverse backgrounds and facilitating inclusion in a country that has a bad track record when it comes to treating everyone fairly under the law and otherwise — I'm looking at you, Jim Crow."