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Affirmative action: Miami’s ‘holistic approach’ to admissions

A recent federal district court upheld affirmative action — a decision that is being appealed — which could affect Miami University’s admission’s policies. 

This month, a federal district court ruled in favor of Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions process. Some Asian students felt that Harvard’s admissions process was discriminatory toward them and argued that race should not be a factor in admissions. If this case goes to the Supreme Court, there is a chance that affirmative action could be overturned. 

Affirmative action is a set of laws, policies and guidelines which focus on access to education and employment, giving special considerations to groups that have historically been discriminated against and excluded, according to CNN. 

Traditionally, affirmative action focuses on granting opportunities to women and racial minorities.

But on Miami’s application, race and ethnicity isn’t a required field. 

Miami’s admissions office claims to take a more holistic approach

Brent Shock, associate vice president of student enrollment services, says that in contrast to having a minimum GPA or standardized test scores to be considered for admission, Miami looks at all aspects of the application: essay section, test scores, GPA and diversity, as indicated by various aspects of the application. 

In 2018 on Miami’s Oxford campus, about 71 percent of undergraduate students were white/unknown, 5 percent were Hispanic/Latinx, 3.5 percent were multi-racial, 3 percent were black/African American, 2 percent were Asian and less than 1 percent were other racial minorities. 

Shock said diversity, broadly defined, means taking into account anything related to geographic location, ethnicity, socio-economic background and religion. This also includes attributes such as first-generation status and students who have a proven history with being interested in diversity. Students can show interest in diversity by joining organizations that promote or focus on diversity.

Miami still uses race in admissions decisions, but it is considered alongside other factors.

“There’s not one thing that is not more important than the other … It’s not just race; it’s not just one thing,” Shock said. “It’s a very comprehensive review of the entire application.” 

A common argument for affirmative action is that it’s necessary for racial and gender diversity in education and employment. 

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On the other hand, critics say it’s unfair toward people who are not considered minorities and “encourages” reverse discrimination.

Sophomore psychology major Jaslyn Davis-Johnson thinks it’s important to include race in admissions decisions. 

“What I’m bringing to your campus includes my race,” Davis-Johnson said. “If you don’t look at that, you’re not looking at all of me.”

There is also a concern that affirmative action simply adds a quota for minority students without working toward true inclusivity. 

“I see more efforts toward inclusion than diversity at Miami,” senior political science major Christyna Thompson said. 

Thompson said affirmative action may lead to an increase in diversity, but that a numbers-based approach is not good enough. She said that the university has to develop a more creative approach to attain diversity as well as inclusion.

“I think that we’re on the right track, and the intention is there,” Thompson said. “We’re being inclusive, but where’s the diversity?”