Leaders of Penn's undergraduate political organization are divided on how the Supreme Court and Penn should address affirmative action.
Politicians across the ideological spectrum have disagreed about the future of affirmative action ahead of the court's ruling for two cases filed by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Democrats have encouraged the court to uphold affirmative action, while Republicans have urged the court to end the policy.
Members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America and Penn Democrats have pointed to how affirmative action policies should increase socioeconomic diversity in addition to racial diversity.
College senior Matthew Liu and member of YDSA said in a statement sent to The Daily Pennsylvanian that affirmative action policies have increased racial diversity within admissions, but the policies have failed to recognize socioeconomic diversity within the admissions.
“Although affirmative action has resulted in increased access to elite universities for underrepresented minorities, Penn and other elite schools have remained almost exclusively composed of the wealthy and upper middle class,” Liu wrote.
Penn Dems Diversity and Coalitions Chair and College junior Joy Olatunde echoed this sentiment about affirmative action overlooking socioeconomic status. She said that if affirmative action remains upheld by the court, it should encompass both race and socioeconomic status.
“While affirmative status should include race because of the problematic past that the United States has with obviously segregation and racist policies that have held African Americans back academically and financially, I think there should be more emphasis on students’ socioeconomic status, as well as race,” Olatunde said.
Olatunde added that students of lower socioeconomic statuses often cannot afford tutors and books, which can heavily impact which schools they can get into. Certain students also benefit from "extra boosts" in admissions, Olatunde said, such as legacy status and inclusion on the Dean's interest list.
Expanding beyond the factors that contribute to admissions, Liu added that Penn and many of its peer institutions are imbued with "exclusivity," although they could "fill their classes with qualified applicants multiple times over, and despite massive endowments, [chooses] not to."
In contrast to the stance of YDSA and Penn Dems, College freshman and Penn College Republicans Political Director Peter Kapp told the DP in a statement that the College Republicans “do not support the use of affirmative action in college admissions," adding that they believe such policies fail to produce a "well-rounded class."
“Instead of race, admissions offices should consider diversity in a more holistic manner and take into account the experiences and challenges faced by individuals from a wide range of backgrounds to create a truly well-rounded and qualified class,” the statement wrote.
Penn has previously defended affirmative action policies and reiterated its desire to create a diverse student body through its race-conscious admissions process.