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Do we still need affirmative action?

October 19, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
What are your thoughts on the affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court?

Abigail Fisher, who is white, is suing the University of Texas at Austin because of an admissions policy she says gave preference to minority applicants. Fisher applied for admission to the university in 2008. According to the AP, at the time the university automatically admitted a student who was in the top 10 percent of a Texas high school class but used other factors, including race, to determine admission for less qualified applicants. A 2003 Supreme Court decision said it was appropriate for colleges and universities to use race as one of several factors in determine entrance, though they could not base admissions decisions on race alone. University officials typically want to increase the racial diversity of their student bodies.

According to the AP article, Fisher said: "I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. For an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does this set for others?" Her comments were posted on YouTube by her lawyers.

Based on an article by Evette Dionne at, Fisher graduated 82nd in a high school class of 674 with a 3.59 GPA and had an SAT score of 1180. That would put her in about the top 12 percent of her graduating class. In other words, Fisher's grades were good but not stellar, not enough to win her automatic admission to a highly competitive university. Her argument seems to be that people with lesser academic qualifications were admitted to the university. Race is one of several criteria used by the university to determine admission under those circumstances and Fisher is arguing that this is not fair.

Fisher does not seem to have been irrevocably damaged by her failure to get into the University of Texas. She graduated from Louisiana State University and is currently working as a financial analyst.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last week. Eight of the judges will decide the case, with a ninth, Justice Elena Kagan, recusing herself from the case. It isn't entirely clear which way they will rule, based on the transcripts of the arguments.

Proponents of affirmative action argue that it is still needed to help rectify the damage done to blacks by generations of racism and the ills associated with slavery. Minority students who attend college under these policies go on to have better careers and to give their own children a leg up. Opponents of the policy say that affirmative action is no longer needed.

Whichever position you take, It's going to be interesting to see the result of this case.


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