By Katie Spiro, Gardner-Webb Media Student
“My goal is to to question why affirmative action is singled out…but I do challenge the justification for getting rid of affirmative action without also doing away with all of the other preferences.”
Those are the words of Regina Smith, an African American student at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland. She attends college
classes in the evenings after going to work as a full-time Federal government employee. Smith presented this speech to her honors college communication course.
Smith said affirmative action was a distinct, yet parallel branch to the real issue of the
university system: unfairness and preference giving. She supports her claim by factoring in ‘other preferences’ that are also given within the university system, those which included legacy admissions, athlete favoritism, and socioeconomic partialities.
As Smith began, she first offered her consolation to the mentalities many Americans hold concerning affirmative
action. She stated that she understood that fairness and “…equal opportunity to work hard and succeed” have been some of the core beliefs and values that the American nation has been founded upon. Smith also said she recognized the negative connotation affirmative action suggest to these foundations.
Acknowledging that affirmative action has given preferences to some black students, Smith does address the obvious issue, but not specifically. She, instead supports her claim by discussing relative themes of unfairness. She stated that, “I am going to focus on the other preferences” and “…give them attention here in the name of that important ideal of American fairness.”
Smith began with addressing the issue of legacy admissions. “Legacy admissions give students special
consideration in admittance to a college or university if one of their parents graduated from the same institution.”
Smith presented percentages of legacy admissions from a number of universities including the University of Pennsylvania, where 41% of accepted students are legacies, the University of Virginia where 52% of freshmen are legacies, and finally, Notre Dame University where 57% of accepted students are legacies.
Her next issue of point amplified preferences given to collegiate athletes. Smith states, “…historically, most
college athletes have been held to a lower standard than other students” and begs the question, “Is it fair when you have to earn a much higher G.P.A. and SAT score than an athlete?”
Smith claimed this question to be unsuitable and inappropriate. When athletes are given academic assistances such as initial admissions, special advisors, paid tutors, and careful course placement– higher grade and graduation rating are and should be expected. Yet, roughly half of the 3,700 NCAA athletes fail to graduate. “That seems unfair,” says Smith.
However, she does offer an exception to the rule of athlete preferences. “Duke University admits student athletes
who are academically prepared and provides them with academic support.” Their ‘formula’ as Smith suggests, “demonstrates that students can win championships and have academic success—without preferences.”
The last topic Smith presented concerned disadvantaged socioeconomic student preferences. Equally qualified students
of blue-collar worker and middle class families are passed over for admission and scholarship by students of destitute backgrounds and ‘challenging life circumstances.’ “That seems unfair” says Smith.
Smith concluded by emphasizing an ironic claim for fairness within the university system. “In the
name of fairness, let us stop giving preferences to children of alumni…to athletes…to economically disadvantages families…” The diversity of the
student-body and collegiate athletic programs will change, as well as the variety of educated peoples—but “…our precious American way of life, will be viewed by the world as fair.”
~Katie Spiro, Gardner-Webb Media Student