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"Diversity Essay" is Not the Answer to Color Blind Admissions
by Robert R. Eberle, Ph.D., GOPUSA
05 September 2003University of Michigan

The new admissions program at the University of Michigan includes a "diversity essay."

Late last week, the University of Michigan announced a new admissions program to replace the "point system" which was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, rather than using the opportunity to rework their system and move it forward in the direction of a strict merit-based color blind process, the new system now includes a "diversity essay" for applicants to examine racial and ethnic issues.

The admissions process at the University of Michigan previously used a system in which points were awarded to the applicant based solely on race. The point system placed more weight on an applicant's race than it did on the applicant's standardized test scores. It was this system that President Bush denounced, calling it "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," Bush said in a January speech from the White House.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, and in June, the Court ruled the point system unconstitutional and remanded the case to a Federal trial court. The trial court has yet to convene, but in the meantime, the University of Michigan went to work to revamp its undergraduate admissions process.

For those of us who yearn for a color blind society, a society in which advancement is based on merit rather than skin color, the new Michigan admissions process smacks of political correctness and shows America that we are far from leaving race behind. The new process includes a "diversity essay" in which applicants must choose from one of two topics on which to write. In the first topic, the applicant must describe how his or her acceptance into the university would contribute to "an academically superb and widely diverse educational community." If the applicant chooses the second option, he or she must describe a personal experience in which "cultural diversity -- or a lack thereof," changed the applicant's life.

The inclusion of this essay is simply ridiculous, and is a blatant attempt to maintain race-based admissions policies. If all things were equal among applicants academically, the subject matter of the applicant's diversity essay should not be the determining factor. Drawing straws would be infinitely more fair. Is someone really more qualified for an advanced education because he or she has a cultural diversity story to write about? No.

A simple fact stands out when looking at the affirmative action issue: discrimination cannot be ended by discrimination. Discriminating against one group to promote another is wrong and only produces ill will. More importantly, if the best students are not being sought out for advancement, what does that say about our educational system?

Are people really that afraid to give merit a chance? I know brilliant people of all races. In graduate school, my class was awash in diversity: Russians, Arabs, Indians, Israelis, and more. They were all as sharp as tacks. In fact, it seemed like the white guys were the caboose of the brainiac train. Perhaps we were the quotas. Now that I think about it, I do remember my office mates telling me that I was the token Texas A&M Aggie. Are Aggies an ethnic group? Maybe I'll have an advantage if I want to go to law school in Michigan.

America has a past in which racial strife has played a large role. It is not something we can forget, nor should we. However, we must learn from the oppression of the past and see to it that no one is held back (or promoted) because of race. We must look beyond race to character and merit. Only then will we be as great as our potential.

Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA.com

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