What people get wrong about affirmative action

AJ Willingham, CNN | 8/4/2017, 7:52 a.m.
After the New York Times reported that the Justice Department is gearing up to combat "intentional race-based discrimination" in schools, ...
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It's not just about race

Race and gender are the two main affirmative action factors that require strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Act. However, they are far from the only types of "diversity" schools look at when making admissions decisions.

"There are lots of factors that we can think about that add to diversity -- we would like have people coming from multiple regions of the United States, (or) who have had other careers," Lieberwitz said. "There are many experiences that students have that are quite impressive and interesting, so universities are going to look at it all -- that's what holistic means, they are going to be looking at the entire package."

It's not the only practice that gives students an edge

It's not uncommon to hear about students getting in to certain schools "because" their family member went there or they are related to a donor or influential person. While holistic admissions processes mean a student never really gets in "because" of one factor or another, it usually doesn't hurt.

"In many university admissions programs, legacy applicants would be used as a positive in the admissions program," Lieberwitz said. "And that is certainly their prerogative. That is not part of the Supreme Court's determination of what is allowed and not allowed."

However, whether it is because of race or gender, family history or donation history, Lieberwitz says it's a fallacy to assume you will automatically be admitted anywhere.

"No one person is entitled to a seat or a place in the university, and universities should have that kind of discretion," she said. "There will always be people who don't get a seat."