Letter to the Editor: Affirmative Action article lacks compassion and accuracy

Written into the mission of BSM is to educate students for social responsibility and to empower leaders for a global society. Both of these characteristics require compassion, which can be defined as concern for the suffering of others. Recently published in the Knight Errant was an article on Affirmative Action (AA) that does not promote compassion for social responsibility nor does it encourage leadership for a global society.

One point incorrectly addressed in the article is on how AA works. The writers framed it as a competition of white versus black students for every spot in a university. In reality, AA provides race as a small factor to weigh in the admissions process. It is incomprehensible that there would be two identical applicants where the only difference was their race. Think about how different the students at BSM are in their academics, interests, extracurriculars, etc. Even though the offerings are similar, our student outcomes are very different.

The second issue with the opinion piece is a fundamental misconception of the American Dream – if you work hard, you will be successful. The fallacy in this argument is that African American students are not on the same playing field as white students. There is overwhelming evidence of additional challenges students of color endure from birth, to graduation, and beyond; even when controlled for socioeconomic status and class, African Americans come out at a disadvantage. AA was created and implemented as an attempt to level the playing field for those that are working harder than their white counterparts for upward mobility.

Beyond race, AA can help all marginalized populations. Even if the most recent and largest federal cases for AA were focused on race (Grutter and Fisher), people with disabilities and women benefitted greatly in the 1970s to increase their population in colleges across the nation.

Bringing it back to the mission at BSM, while at a Catholic (big C) school, we promote catholic (little C) values of being “all-embracing,” a characteristic we can get behind without insisting on religion. This means we are a compassionate community that supports those in need, those who are marginalized, and give voice to those who are afraid to speak. The students of color who are helped by AA are those who are finding compassion in a system that is rooted against them from the moment they are born. Instead of being selfish, these institutions of higher learning are providing catholic, and LaSallian, values by providing an education for all types of people.

We all benefit from living in a diverse world and studying in diverse places; it creates empathy for people who are different from us. It helps us become better global leaders. Our job as future leaders is to fight the social injustices that hold people of color down, not to rob them of more opportunities.

Kirsten Hoogenakker