The Supreme Court heard arguments for and against affirmative action this week in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas (UT) at Austin. Abigail Noel Fisher, who is white, challenged the university’s admissions policy after her application was rejected in 2008. Fisher asserted that her constitutional right to equal treatment was violated if less-qualified minority applicants were admitted and she was not.
Racial quotas are not allowed, but other forms of affirmative action have been permitted since the court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. Since that time, universities have been allowed to consider race in admissions as a part of a “holistic” view of an applicant.
Even Fisher’s lawyers admit that affirmative action has a minimal affect on minority admissions at UT–Austin, according to CBS. Public colleges and universities in Texas have a policy, based on a state law, of accepting all Texas students who graduate in the top 8 to 10 percent of their classes. These students make up 75 percent of admissions. School officials consider other criteria, including racial diversity, when selecting the remaining 25 percent of students.
Yet, if the Supreme Court overturns its 2003 decision in this case, it would affect the affirmative action policies of universities nationwide.
According to one expert, affirmative action is unpopular with citizens, but is valuable to the country. Noliwe Rooks is professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University and author of “White Money/Black Power: The History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education.”
Rooks said in an email: “Such disparate voices from across the political aisle as Barack and Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell are unequivocal when they say that, without it, they would not have risen to the heights they did.
“Over half of the members of the top Fortune 100 companies say that abolishing affirmative action would hamper their ability to compete globally.”
– Noliwe Rooks, professor, Cornell University
Some in the U.S. military say that a diverse military is a national security issue; over half of the members of the top Fortune 100 companies say that abolishing Affirmative Action would hamper their ability to compete globally; and top public and private universities say that the program makes it possible for them to train a diverse citizenry for leadership and entrepreneurial opportunity.”
Rooks said affirmative action has done more to level the playing field and enrich the diversity of national leadership than any other policy.
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, wrote that the admissions policies at the University of Texas are “an immoral and unjustified practice that was unfortunately sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger.”
Spakovsky thinks the Supreme Court should stop universities from considering race when choosing students. He quoted Chief Justice John Roberts, who said in 2007 that the “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu (Calif.-32), chair of the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), also issued a statement that affirmative action is good for the country. “Policies that allow universities to look at qualified applicants in a holistic manner help to foster diverse learning environments that benefit all students regardless of socio-economic background or race. Such environments are critical to student success in an increasingly global economy, and if the Supreme Court upholds the UT-Austin’s admissions policy, it will be a victory for all of our nation’s students.”
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