Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

College Democrats, Republicans Debate Affirmative Action

College Democrats, Republicans Debate Affirmative Action

Swope, Polkey Face off as Keynote Speakers

By Andreas Andrea Hoya Staff Writer

The College Democrats and College Republicans met Wednesday night in Healy Hall to argue the merits of affirmative action. The debate, which came in anticipation of Georgetown’s upcoming Diversity Week, was conducted in the style of the Philodemic Society, with two keynote speakers, followed by speakers from the floor. Roughly 50 students were in attendance at the debate.

Robert Swope (COL ’00), keynote speaker for the Republicans, won the coin toss and spoke first. He did not argue against the idea of affirmative action, but rather what he sees as a quota system that has replaced it. “Let us be clear, it is not affirmative action, but general race preference that is the issue,” he said.

The U.S. Constitution, in his view, does not give rights to groups of people, but rather individuals, and so should affirmative action.

“Whites as a group do not have rights; blacks as a group do not have rights,”Swope said. “Affirmative action should not be abandoned, but put into the context of the individuals that have been wronged.”

Swope argued that the problem with affirmative action as it stands today is that it allows for racial preferences, and can benefit those that have never suffered from social injustice.

In his view, it also can hurt those it is designed to help. “Racial preferences are injurious and counterproductive. The minorities who benefit from affirmative action are actually hurt by it because stereotypes of inferiority are reinforced by affirmative action’s lower standards. It undermines the credentials of minority professionals who are qualified,” he said.

On the other side Aaron Polkey (COL ’02), keynote speaker for the Democrats, said that Swope “debated quotas, not affirmative action.” Trying to clarify the issue, he said, “Unqualified quotas are wrong. We are asking for the government and institutions to take a second look at minority applicants who are disadvantaged through circumstances outside of their control.”

Polkey brought up the point that affirmative action is not necessarily a racial issue and that the government utilizes it in many other areas. “Minorities include many other categories – women, veterans, handicapped – we subsidize our farmers and industries for the general welfare. The Montgomery GI Bill is discriminatory towards veterans.” he said.

Another element of Polkey’s argument was that affirmative action does not lead to less qualified applicants receiving benefits over those that are more qualified. “The suggestion that unqualified people are falling through the cracks is offensive. Affirmative action helps people whose portfolio does not represent them accurately.”

Polkey said that Georgetown’s admissions numbers debunk the theory that affirmative action hurts whites. He said that “every white student who is qualified is accepted to Georgetown,” and pointed to the fact that even with an aggressive affirmative action campaign, the percentage of whites at Georgetown is still higher than the national percentage.

After Polkey finished, the floor was opened to comments from those in attendance. In the given format, each speaker commented on what the previous speaker said. Steve Glickman (COL ’02) argued that “progress didn’t just happen overnight; it happened because of affirmative action.”

Jo-Leo Carney-Waterton (SFS ’02) brought up the point that although segregation may now be illegal, “whites need to recognize that they still benefit from an unjust institution.”

He argued that affirmative action attempts to remedy the breach of contract the American government caused with minorities by not recognizing their inherent constitutional rights in the past.

John Zimmer (SFS ’02) spoke out against affirmative action, asking,”How do you eliminate racism by categorizing people? Racism will not be solved by government regulation.”

Zimmer argued that affirmative action is a dividing factor among people, Tad Smith (COL ’03) said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Affirmative action breaks apart American unity by dividing people into statistical groups.”

Robert Wingate-Robinson (COL ’03) tried to illustrate a specific example how resources could affect performance. “[Inner-city blacks] don’t have a lot of money to pay for SAT preparation. A lot of black people don’t even think they would have a chance to get into Georgetown.”

Polkey argued in his conclusion that affirmative action has done a great deal of good but that it still needs to go further. “We aren’t yet to the point where we can get rid of affirmative action,” he said.

In his concluding remarks after the floor debate, Swope said, “We need a vision of a colorblind society that looks at people as individuals.” The emphasis Swope made was on unity rather than separation.

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