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It's Time to End Affirmative Action

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Debate Details

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case that challenged the constitutionality of racial considerations in college admissions. Since then, measures to limit affirmative action have reached many state legislatures, including in Michigan, California and Washington. Is affirmative action a necessary tool to combat racism and social inequality that has historically excluded minorities from higher education? Or has the law outlived its usefulness? 

The Debaters

For the motion

John H. McWhorter

Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and weekly columnist for the New York Sun

John's academic specialty is language change and language contact. He is the author of 11 books, including Losing the Race, an anthology of race writings... Read More

Terence J. Pell

President of The Center for Individual Rights (CIR)

Prior to joining CIR in 1997, Pell worked as an attorney with the firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn. From 1985 to 1988, he was a deputy... Read More

Joseph C. Phillips

Actor, Social Commentator and Syndicated Columnist

Joseph has written articles for many newspapers and magazines, and his syndicated column appears in papers across the country and online. He was a... Read More

Against the motion

Khin Mai Aung

Staff Attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Aung works on educational equity and youth rights issues, including access to bilingual education and affirmative action. In fall 2006, she worked... Read More

Kimberle W. Crenshaw

Professor of Law at UCLA and at Columbia Law School

Writing in the areas of civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism and the law, Kimberlé's articles have appeared in the Harvard... Read More

Tim Wise

Writer and Educator

Tim has trained teachers as well as corporate, government, media and law enforcement officials on methods of dismantling institutional racism and... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • While affirmative action was created to serve as a “tiebreaker” between two equally matched candidates, it has been expanded to allow racial preference in the name of campus diversity.
  • Racial preferences create a stigma around the qualifications of its recipients, and calls into question their ability to succeed in the academic or professional environment.
  • Enrolling students in universities where their peers are better prepared and better qualified sets them up to do poorly and negates the intended benefits of affirmative action as a social policy.
  • Students of color should not be expected to serve as a cultural liaison in classrooms; using diversity as a justification for admission is unfair to prospective students. 
Against The Motion
  • Affirmative action rightly corrects a history of oppression and systemic racism that continues to negatively impact people of color.
  • Affirmative action ensures diversity on campus and in the workplace, to everyone’s benefit.
  • Using preferences in college admissions, including athletic, legacy, and class-based preferences, is a deeply ingrained practice.
  • Decisions based on standardized tests and secondary school quality unfairly favor students with more affluent backgrounds; affirmative action serves to mitigate this inequality.


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