Debate Calls Into Question Implementation of Affirmative Action

Brooke Jensen
Professor Dalton Conley delivers the opening statement in favor of affirmative action based on economic background in the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

NYU’s Review and Debates club discussed whether affirmative action should be based on economic background at its first spring semester debate on Tuesday.

The debate featured sociology professor Dalton Conley, a guest speaker, who highlighted the distinction between parental household income, parental education and net worth. Conley argued that wealth and parental education do a better job than any other socioeconomic factor in determining future success.

However, Stern senior Vishal Khemka chose to take the opposing view. Khemka delved into questioning the contributing factors which may prevent educational success.

“We can see that issues really exist because of factors such as gender, race, early childhood education, single parent status and upraising,” Khemka said. “To simply target economic inequality would really mean that we’re trying to avoid this problem all together.”

Stern senior Abhinav Mittal discussed how focusing affirmative action around class is not only helpful in addressing issues of income disparity, but also race discrimination.

The final speaker, Stern senior Jeffrey Hu, focused on the 20 years of a student’s life before affirmative action is even a factor, claiming that it is ineffective for a student who faced economic struggles while growing up.

“25 percent of schools with a population of African-American and Hispanic students don’t offer algebra,” Hu said. “We need to provide them with the tools.”

Hu asserted that the emphasis should not only be on what is provided for the students when they start college, but rather what is provided for them throughout their lives that would allow them to succeed in the future.

Finally, the results of the debate came down to a vote by the audience. The proposition proved to be victorious with the vote ending 35 to 3.

Gallatin freshman Jenny Neuman said she was surprised by the debate’s results.

“NYU is a pretty liberal school,” Neuman said. “However, affirmative action is a topic that I tend to hear many people oppose here. I was happy to see that many people at this debate supported it.”

Email Brooke Jensen at [email protected]

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