To the Editor: In his defense of affirmative action, Vinay Harpalani argues ("Affirming what merit really means," The Daily Pennsylvanian, 9/7/00) that universities should consider race when admitting students because blacks and other minorities are more likely than whites to give back to their communities. In other words, universities should give some priority to an individual who belongs to a racial group whose members are more likely to engage in certain behaviors than members of other racial groups, regardless of whether that individual will engage in that behavior or not. This is the same type of logic certain law enforcement groups use to justify racial profiling. They argue that because blacks are more likely than whites to be engaged in criminal activities, police officers should be more suspicious of a black individual than a white individual, regardless of whether that individual is engaged in a suspicious behavior or not. I find this particular argument offensive, and I'm willing to bet that Mr. Harpalani does as well. Why does he use a similar line of reasoning to justify affirmative action? As dangerous as Mr. Harpalani's argument is, what he concludes from it is essentially correct. Universities probably can consider race in admissions decisions without compromising merit to any significant degree -- at least no more than when they consider athletic ability, state of origin or any other idiosyncrasy. However, universities cannot consider race in admissions decisions without compromising the civil rights of individuals who do not belong to the racial groups that are procedurally advantaged by such an admissions process. Mr. Harpalani forgets, or at least puts aside for the moment, the fact that the best argument against racially sensitive admissions processes is not that less qualified individuals may gain entrance, but that individuals may be denied entrance, to some extent, because of the color of their skin. And that is something that no one, be he or she black, white or green, should have to deal with.
Seth Goldstein Law '03 To the Editor: I appreciated Erin Reilly's column ("Make AIDS in Africa a priority in America," DP, 9/8/00) concerning the magnitude of the AIDS problem in Africa. It is truly a horrifying situation that deserves the undivided attention of both the United States and the rest of the developed world, for moral, political and economic reasons. However, I was shocked by her calm statement that since "the West" is concerned about global overpopulation, we are willing to let AIDS "thin" Third World populations. I think that most citizens of "the West," myself included, would readily admit to some degree of ambivalence to Africa's problems, perhaps a more intellectual concern than a pointed moral concern. This is a natural reaction to problems, however large, that exist on the other side of the planet. But attributing to "the West" a conscious willingness to let AIDS alleviate overpopulation is downright ghoulish and weird. Ms. Reilly seems to imply that the average person from "the West" is at home with violent genocidal attitudes. I certainly am not.
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