NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

The Gravity of Affirmative Action


Once upon a time, during that tempestuous period known as college admissions season, I managed to get to the interview portion of the Harvard University application process. With my entire family in tow, I went to a posh downtown coffee shop to chat with a Harvard alumnus who worked for Nintendo. While the conversation was filled with laughs and pastries, I knew deep down inside that I had bombed the interview.  

One of my other classmates, who was a white person, was also interviewed that very day. I was hopeful that I could keep my interview a secret, but by lunchtime the next school day, the word had spread. A rift formed in my graduating class, who were majority Asian-American, and whom I suspected had misgivings over my qualifications, as a black woman, to even get the interview at all.  

Even some of my friends whom I had known for years didn’t seem as happy for my achievement as I thought they would be. It was especially illuminating to see the cruelty of these students, who believed that they deserved to get an Ivy League education over another person simply because of the other person’s skin tone.  

I ultimately didn’t get accepted to Harvard, but through an interesting journey that spanned a long time, I was accepted to NJIT, which is considered the best public university in New Jersey. Being at a prestigious university has its merits, but only to an extent. While it can feel extremely gratifying to be among exceptional students who are bound for greatness, it can also be incredibly isolating to have a limited number of fellow students that are have the same racial background.  

Many don’t understand the importance of affirmative action in schools like ours. Many truly believe that merit alone was the only factor in their acceptance. They would be wrong.  

So why is affirmative action so important? First, it ensures fairness in the college admissions process. For years, historical disadvantages and systemic biases have denied numerous bright minds from minority communities their rightful places in prestigious institutions. Affirmative action levels the playing field, offering a shot at the dream of higher education to everyone, regardless of their background. 

Diversity and inclusion within higher education shouldn’t just be buzzwords. Students from varied backgrounds bring distinct perspectives, foster innovation, and develop understanding and mutual respect. This diversity prepares students for a globalized world where collaboration across cultures is paramount. 

We can’t discuss affirmative action without addressing its role in dismantling institutionalized racism. This isn’t just about admissions — it’s about rectifying a historical imbalance and acknowledging deeply entrenched prejudices in our society. 

Some claim that institutions like historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs, might actually benefit from the end of affirmative action, as more minority students might lean towards these establishments. This perspective, while seemingly positive, oversimplifies the complexities associated with college choices and negates the right of students to choose their institution based on merits other than race. 

While the debate on affirmative action is complex and multifaceted, one thing remains clear: it plays a crucial role in ensuring fairness, fostering diversity, and dismantling ingrained biases. It’s time for a nuanced conversation that goes beyond skewed statistics and considers the profound impact on our educational system and society at large. 

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Christine Olukere, Staff Writer
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