Affirmative Action

Essay by nicolereyreyCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2006

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Alan Bakke claimed that he was treated unfairly when he was not admitted to the University of California at Davis Medical School because of the special quota for qualified applicants from disadvantaged minorities. In addressing this question one must first understand what affirmative action is and the different types of affirmative action currently in place. According to Dr Miller, affirmative action is a selection process intended to make the chances of success of members of a targeted group in a competition greater than they would be if selectors were not aware of group-membership. When discussing affirmative action one needs to look at the two types currently in place--weak affirmative action programs and strong affirmative action programs. Weak affirmative action programs create a diverse applicant pool prior to competition, and in many instances involves targeted marketing campaigns, outreach recruitment, application incentives, explicit anti-discrimination policies, and so on. With respect to Bakke's case, a strong affirmative action program was in place--this is a program that "gives a substantially greater chance to admission to target group applicants as opposed to white males who are more likely to acquire the skills usually sought" (handout).

In the case of Bakke, such a system can but not necessarily involve such items as quota systems, selectively lowering standards, differentiating application streams, or tie breaking rules. In assessing whether the decision was fair or not one needs to weigh the numerous benefits and detriments of such programs. One also needs to think about how he or she is approaching such a question. If one is looking at this question from the individual perspective of Alan Bakke who would have been admitted in the absence of the quota then yes, Bakke was treated unfairly. However, if one is looking at such a question with society as a whole in...