Monday, November 7, 2022

What is affirmative action, anyway? 4 essential reads

Co-written with Jamaal Abdul-Alim
The Supreme Court is deciding a case on whether, and how, universities may consider an applicant’s race when making admissions decisions. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Jamaal Abdul-Alim, The Conversation and Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

Race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions could soon be a thing of the past. At least that’s the impression many observers got after listening to oral arguments about the practice before the U.S Supreme Court.

Scholars writing for The Conversation U.S. have taken a closer look at affirmative action and how it has been seen and used in the realm of higher education.

1. Even some supporters don’t know how it works

When OiYan Poon, a race and education scholar at Colorado State University, traveled across the nation to ask Asian Americans what they knew about affirmative action, they found that even people who were part of organizations that publicly supported or opposed it didn’t quite understand how affirmative action works.

For instance, “30 out of 36 presented outdated myths” about affirmative action, she wrote. “These 30 included 13 affirmative action supporters and 17 opponents,” who talked about ideas such as “‘racial quotas,’ which were declared unconstitutional in [1978]. They also thought it involved ‘racial bonus points’ for Black and Latino applicants,” Poon found.

In fact, Poon wrote, “race-conscious admissions is now practiced through holistic review of individual applicants. Such individualized review is meant to recognize, in a limited way, how race and racism might have shaped each applicant’s perspectives and educational opportunities.”

2. Banning affirmative action has clear effects

A Black woman wearing a black graduation cap and gown is seated in between two white male college graduates.
Some researchers say graduation is less likely for Black, Hispanic and Native American students when affirmative action is outlawed. Andy Sacks via Getty Images

It’s possible to predict what could happen if the Supreme Court rules against affirmative action. As Natasha Warikoo, a Tufts University professor who studies racial equity in education, pointed out: “Since nine states already have bans on affirmative action, it’s easy to know what will happen if affirmative action is outlawed. Studies of college enrollment in those states show that enrollment of Black, Hispanic and Native American undergraduate students will decline in the long term.”

“Undergraduate enrollment is not the only area of higher education that will be affected. A ban on affirmative action will ultimately lead to fewer graduate degrees earned by Black, Hispanic and Native American students,” she wrote.

3. The difference is big

Two female students walk on the campus of UCLA.
Public universities in California cannot consider race in admissions. Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Vinay Harpalani, a scholar of discrimination at the University of New Mexico, delivered some numbers: After California banned affirmative action at its state universities, “[t]he enrollment of Black, Latino and Native American students dropped dramatically in the University of California system. For example, at UCLA, the percentage of underrepresented minorities dropped from 28% to 14% between 1995 and 1998. There was a similar drop at UC Berkeley.”

In more recent years, he reported, “The enrollment numbers have recovered, largely due to increased Latino enrollment. Currently at UCLA, 22% of the undergraduate student body is Latino and 3% is Black. But it is also important to note that the number of Latino high school graduates has more than tripled since 1997.”

4. A military case for affirmative action

A wounded white soldier is carried by a Black soldier during the Vietnam War.
A wounded soldier is carried by members of the 1st Cavalry Division near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. Bettmann/GettyImages

In an article explaining the point of view of 35 military officers who have asked the Supreme Court to continue to allow affirmative action, Travis Knoll, a historian at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, looked to the nation’s – and the military’s – racial experience during the Vietnam War.

“[I]n 1962, when U.S. involvement was starting to grow in Vietnam, Black commissioned officers represented only 1.6% of the officers corps,” he wrote. “Military academies remained virtually segregated, with Black people making up less than 1% of enrollees. As a result, the number of Black officers didn’t grow much.”

That led to unrest in the ranks: “Over the next five years, the number of Black soldiers fighting and dying on the front lines grew to about 25%. Racial tensions between white and Black soldiers led to at least 300 fights in a two-year-period that resulted in 71 deaths,” Knoll wrote. “Fueling those fights was the belief among Black soldiers that the largely white officers didn’t care about their lives.”

That experience, Knoll explained, drove home to the military the idea that diversity in leadership was extremely important. “It also began the military’s use of affirmative action, including race-conscious admissions policies at service academies and in ROTC programs.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Education Editor, The Conversation and Jeff Inglis, Freelance Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

How to ensure election integrity and accuracy – 3 essential reads

A county clerk, far left, swears in a group of Nevada residents to conduct a hand count of ballots on Oct. 26, 2022. AP Photo/Gabe Stern
Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

It’s almost certain there will be questions about the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections. In fact, some concerns about machine counting have already sparked one Nevada county to seek to hand-count all ballots. Several scholars of elections have written for The Conversation U.S. about ways to ensure voting is conducted and counted fairly and accurately. It all starts with paper ballots.

1. Paper is secure

Paper ballots, including those sent by mail, are not ripe for fraud, reported election law scholar Steven Mulroy at the University of Memphis: “[H]aving a paper ballot is a key way to protect public trust in elections, allowing recounts in case machines are hacked or suffer software or hardware problems that could affect vote counting.”

Even when many people vote by mail, which Mulroy also says is a secure method of voting: “Vote-by-mail states have not seen a higher rate of election fraud cases than states with strict rules on who can vote absentee, according to a database of fraud cases compiled by the Heritage Foundation, an organization concerned about voting fraud.”

A Wisconsin voter casts a ballot ahead of primary election day in 2020, avoiding lines and finding a more convenient time to vote. AP Photo/Morry Gash

2. Paper is key

In fact, paper ballots are the best way to ensure the votes are counted correctly, wrote Herbert Lin, a Stanford cybersecurity scholar:

If hacked, an electronic voting machine cannot be trusted to count votes accurately. In an election conducted with paper ballots, the ballots themselves can be examined and recounted.”

“The idea of recounting electronically cast votes is meaningless,” he wrote. Without something physically marked by each individual voter, “[a]ny problems … would be impossible to fix, calling into public question the integrity of the whole process and the validity of any results.”

Recounting very close races is not enough to ensure election integrity. AP Photo/Ben Finley

3. Manual counts aren’t necessary

But using paper ballots doesn’t mean counting has to happen by hand.

Computer scientist Eugene Vorobeychik at Vanderbilt University has studied ways to count votes by machine – which is much faster than by hand – while still ensuring accuracy. Essentially, he said, paper ballots can help confirm – or not – a vote tally in the event of an audit.

“[A]fter the election,” he wrote, “auditors can compare electronic voting results to the results documented in the paper trail. If they don’t agree, then something has gone wrong – either accidentally or as a result of outside interference – and a newly verified tally of the actual paper votes can be used to determine the winner.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jeff Inglis, Freelance Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.