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Supreme Court set to rule on affirmative action in college admissions

May 29, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Should colleges and universities give preference to minority students over white or Asian students in admissions decisions? Many universities currently do, deeming race-based admissions necessary to ensure a diverse student body. However, the Supreme Court may be about to rule the practice unconstitutional.

Abigail Fisher, who is white, sued the University of Texas after she was denied admission. Fisher would have been guaranteed automatic admission to the university if she had graduated in the top 10 percent of her class; instead, she graduated in the top 12 percent. Students who fall outside the top 10 percent were placed in a pool of applicants and could gain admission based on other factors, including accomplishments, ability or family circumstances or race. In her lawsuit, Fisher claims that minority students who had less academic qualifications than she did were admitted to the university and she was not. The lawsuit alleges that this violates the equal protection clause of the constitution. If the Supreme Court rules in Fisher's favor, it has the potential to end affirmative action based on race in college admissions.

This is a complex issue and one that I have mixed feelings about. Affirmative action policies like this one are supposed to level the playing field for bright minority students who didn't have top test scores because of less educational opportunities than or disadvantaged family backgrounds. A student might be very bright and capable indeed, but if he didn't go to a top notch high school, come from a middle income family or have family members who were college educated, he might not do as well on the SATs or ACTs as someone who had more advantages. Colleges also argue that a student body should be diverse, which is beneficial to all students. However, it's kind of interesting that Asians are not counted as a minority when it comes to race-based college admissions. Asian-American students are deemed too successful.

How would you rule in this case?

 
 

Article Comments

(18)

AndreaJohnson

Jun-06-13 4:22 PM

There are probably too many kids being pushed to attend universities when they might be better off in a trade or vocational school and I don't know if every single high school graduate should be required to master algebra to get a degree, particularly if it won't be required in his career field. We undoubtedly have too many people with master's degrees in fine arts or English who are unemployed or working in other fields, with massive student loans they won't pay back until they're in their 40s or later. But that's another issue entirely. If we're talking college admissions, I think it's more fair to use class and income as a deciding factor than race. Class and income-based admissions will still result in the admission of many minorities, but upper middle class black students won't necessarily get a leg up in admissions that they don't need as much as students from more modest backgrounds.

MattRothchild

Jun-06-13 1:10 PM

"The larger problem is that so many kids are not receiving an adequate K-12 education and are not prepared for college"

Just keep in mind that schooling doesn't always equal education. That's a point that gets confused daily, much to our abundant detriment.

AndreaJohnson

Jun-06-13 12:52 PM

Of course they do, but I think such programs should be expanded where appropriate.

The larger problem is that so many kids are not receiving an adequate K-12 education and are not prepared for college. Poverty-based or race-based admission programs aren't going to be successful if they put a kid into a setting he isn't prepared for.

MattRothchild

Jun-06-13 8:09 AM

"I would rather see universities use economic class as the major deciding factor"

Correct me if I'm wrong, AJ, but doesn't that already exist? Don't they already have "need-based" programs for the economically disadvantaged who can hack it academically?

AndreaJohnson

Jun-05-13 1:48 PM

I think there are probably better ways to go about it than using race as a determining factor.

I would rather see universities use economic class as the major deciding factor. That would encompass a large number of minority students as well as poor white students. I don't know if it's necessarily fair for the black, upper middle class son or daughter of a doctor or a lawyer or President Obama to benefit from a race-based affirmative action policy. The other problem is that if a kid is not academically prepared to attend a rigorous college, he's more likely to drop out than if he'd attended a state school or community college first and then transferred.

MattRothchild

Jun-05-13 10:01 AM

"Affirmative action only "appears to discriminate in the opposite direction" if you're White.

One does not need to be a social science major to figure out that 200 years of institutionalized racism can't be undone with a few years of lip service.

This nation was well warned that the price for slavery and discrimination would be steep indeed.

No whining, folks."

So, because someone did it for 200 years means that it's OK to seek out payback and revenge...

...sound like a fine model for civility.

namexxx

Jun-04-13 4:40 PM

Affirmative action only "appears to discriminate in the opposite direction" if you're White.

One does not need to be a social science major to figure out that 200 years of institutionalized racism can't be undone with a few years of lip service.

This nation was well warned that the price for slavery and discrimination would be steep indeed.

No whining, folks.

MattRothchild

Jun-04-13 12:22 PM

I wonder...

Shall "historically black" colleges and universities be forced to accept a certain number of students who are not of that background?

If you ask me, the whole thing comes across as silly. If we are truly committed to the idea of judging a man by "the content of his character", doesn't it dictate that we would reject these machinations as they are inconsistent with that ethic?

AndreaJohnson

Jun-01-13 11:08 PM

That's another issue entirely, but definitely a problem. Students are graduating with far too much debt and don't necessarily have the prospect of good jobs after college graduation.

locomotive

Jun-01-13 11:19 AM

I think it also depends on what one expects to get out of attending college. It's expensive and rather insulated from real world experiences. There are many college graduates in the present economy that are unemployed or underemployed. Were their years and dollars best spent getting that degree?

AndreaJohnson

May-31-13 11:09 AM

Affirmative action appears to discriminate in the opposite direction. I've always thought had the potential to hurt the people it was trying to help, since people may unfairly assume they didn't earn their place at college.

Colleges have always given preference to certain groups -- legacies, athletes, etc. Earlier in the 20th century, a number of colleges deliberately limited the number of Jewish students in each class, unfairly cutting out many Jewish students who qualified and had higher grades than other students. Now they've stopped doing that, but are unfairly limiting the number of Asian-American students who can be part of each class.

One of the other arguments made is that affirmative action policies may put academically unprepared students into colleges where they are less likely to be successful. They might have a better chance to complete a degree if they go instead to a less rigorous college and transfer to the Ivy League later.

namexxx

May-30-13 6:27 PM

Should colleges and universities continue their 200-year old tradition of giving preference to Whites in admissions decisions?

AndreaJohnson

May-30-13 1:09 PM

My adoptive great-grandfather changed his family name from Nienonen to Johnson because it sounded more American, which it does. You couldn't look at my name alone and guess what race or ethnicity I am. That's probably the case with a lot of people, but there are still enough names that are more common with one group or another for people to assume so and so is black, white, Asian or Indian, etc.

As for college admissions, they DO want to take bright, poor kids from diverse backgrounds. This lawsuit is over whether they can do that and "discriminate" against the white kid who had slightly higher test scores than some of the black and Hispanic students who were presumably admitted in her place.

billldoesntgetit

May-30-13 12:57 PM

Andrea I had a Vietnamese guy work for me some years back.. he had a long hard to pronounce name. As he went thru the process of becoming an American citizen he was allowed to change his last name.. He changed it to Putt. He was schooled in US schools but had he applied for college could his name have dictated he was Vietnamese?

I guess my point is why is it that the Colleges think they have the right to select only the best of the best? Are the teachers in college too ignorant to work with kids with lesser grades? Why do we discriminate against a healthy 18 year old with a 4.0 grade average whose parents are not "rich" And instead they choose a black student with a 4.0 grade average that has rich parents?

Some of our brightest people in the Country came from what could be classed as second rate schools.

All the bright people do not dwell in big cities next to wealthy schools.

In the end our colleges boil down to the famous money trail!!! And whose Daddy can get them i

AndreaJohnson

May-30-13 11:05 AM

Even without a picture, it's probably possible for college admissions to make a good educated guess what race and of what economic background an applicant comes from. The school the kid went to, the town he lives in, the financial information from his parents, his name, his parents' names, the wording he uses in the college essay,will reflect who he is and where he comes from. Say you get applications from the fictional LaKeisha Jackson, Daisy Chung and Emily Collins, all of whom have 4.0 GPAs, comparable SAT scores and are very involved in their schools and communities. Which kid would you say is black, which is Chinese-American, and which one is probably white? Would you be inclined to feel more of a connection with one over another and would it make you more likely to pick one of them for one of the limited slots in next year's freshman class? The question is whether colleges can do that legally and say they're doing it and why.

billldoesntgetit

May-30-13 8:22 AM

Don't allow the colleges to ask about what race you are on your application. Don't request photos and judge your applicants solely on their grades as it should be.

You cannot tell what color a person is by the way they write and fill out apps.. Only when you look at them. So quit looking and base your admission on the items required to attend college..

psychout

May-29-13 11:54 PM

Colleges do not make decisions on race-based affirmative action in isolation. That is, universities give preferences for a host of non-academic factors- legacies, exceptional talent, faculty relations, celebrity status, sports prowess, rich parents who might be expected to contribute significant monies, etc. By eliminating race, universities will place even more weight upon those non-academic factors which largely benefit white applicants. To pretend that eliminating racial considerations balances the scales, is to overlook the ways in which the scales are already weighted to favor white applicants.

RogerClegg

May-29-13 8:42 PM

Here's the key sentence: "Affirmative action policies like this one are supposed to level the playing field for bright minority students who didn't have top test scores because of less educational opportunities than or disadvantaged family backgrounds." But there are not only plenty of Asian students who fit this description, but plenty of white students as well; what's more, there are plenty of black and Latino students who do NOT have disadvantaged backgrounds (indeed, 86 percent of black students going to the more selective schools come from upper- or middle-class backgrounds). Nor can background or viewpoint "diversity" be presumed from skin color. Bottom line: Don't give preferences based on race.

 
 

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