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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Quashing Race-Based College Admissions Will Not Serve Justice

It may be time to say farewell to affirmative action in higher education admissions and to the aspirations that went with it.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case challenging the sliver of consideration the university gives to race and ethnicity when deciding whom to admit. It is already being billed as “the case that killed affirmative action.”

That may prove true, as the make-up of the Supreme Court has changed considerably since the last time it looked at this heated issue in 2003. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, now retired, wrote the majority 5-4 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s policy of considering race in conjunction with other factors for admissions.

O’Connor famously opined that “25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

She was 16 years off in that prediction. The court may simply forbid race as a consideration for both state universities and private ones that accept federal funds.

Texas automatically accepts the top 10 percent of each of its high schools’ graduating classes. Given the state’s many high schools that are de facto segregated by race, this guarantees a certain measure of diversity. Applicants not in the top 10 percent are selected based on other factors, one of which is race (but only in conjunction with other factors, following Grutter).

Abigail Fisher didn’t make the 10 percent cut. Nor was she admitted based on other criteria. She sued, arguing she was denied admission because of her race.

By pursuing her case, Fisher and her lawyers are in effect alleging that she was more deserving than at least one non-white student admitted to the university. Indeed, the subtext of the backlash against affirmative action and “diversity” is that the white student is always more deserving.

But what do we mean by “deserving”?

Colleges often weigh race-neutral factors such as socio-economic status, whether a student is the first in their family to attend college, or whether the family moved often during the student’s formative years. Low-income white students from rural areas often benefit equally from such considerations.

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  • As long as we base decisions on spurious racial identification, we will continue to do massive injustice.

    No one knows what a black or white race is. Even sillier are red or yellow races, hispanic or jewish races. My favorite bit of frivolity is the plain fact that the Irish are the reddest people on earth – as well as the whitest – and have been excluded from both groups. My Irish immigrant father used to talk with a wee bit of contempt of “white men” trying to be Irish. It was never fully clear whether his sons and daughters were whites or Americans but I tended to think the latter.

    Our racist nation often equates “white” with caucasian but the majority of caucasians were dark-skinned, i.e. natives of south Asia.

    I am rather taken by the selection of the top students of all schools in Texas for favorable admission to colleges even though the very brightest students often do very poorly in school. That at least has the virtue of some leveling of the playing field.

    Sadly, apparently like Ms. Sanchez, I am of the opinion our awful Supreme Court will do bad – as usual. Even in the best of cases, judges tend to dispense with justice rather than dispensing justice.

  • bcarreiro

    If a college denies a person who has met the criteria and then ultimately lose to being a certain race it is teaching to discriminate and not that it is a tool for higher learning but lower(ed) expectations in embracing diversity in which I would rather not attend this college to begin with.

  • dljones

    Sanchez::Affirmative Action or is it Reaction? Admission should be based on academics. Diversity is for U.S. citizens, and should not be measured by race or which restroom they use. We can not rule or educate the world. We grow a nation by example as is defined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  • The person doing the suing says she had better grades than the one that was picked to go to the state colleges. But did she? What courses in school did both students take and what was their grades on the subjects considered to be the hardest of the courses taken? What other things did she do that would make her the better of the two students? What I would like to see are the grades of the two students and what other activities they did in school? Which I know we will never see and that the Supreme Court will never ask to see. There may be other factors besides race, grades and so on why the suing student wasn’t picked for a state college and who is paying her legal bills?