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Supreme Court To Take Up Affirmative Action

Supreme Court To Take Up Affirmative Action

Affirmative action policies are once again under scrutiny as the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will revisit a 2003 decision that allows universities to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions.

In the case, Fisher v. University of Texas, a white student argues that the University’s affirmative action policy cost her a spot in the school. The policy provides admission for those in the top 10 percent of their Texas high schools. Abigail Noel Fisher did not make that cut and was put in a pool of applicants in which race is considered a factor in admissions, along with others like leadership qualities, test scores, community service and work experience. She still didn’t get in.

Fisher was able to enroll in Louisiana State University and is on track to graduate in four years.

Fisher argues goes beyond what the Court has said is acceptable in considering race in admissions because UT’s race-neutral policy for the top 10 percent already brings in higher percentages than those considered in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision. In Grutter, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing for the 5-4 majority said the University of Michigan’s law school could consider race as part of a holistic evaluation of an applicant. O’Connor said the government had a compelling interest in diversity, including seeking a “critical mass” of minority students.

The students that are automatically accepted to UT account for the vast majority of the freshman classes, with about 30 percent of enrolling students from underrepresented minorities. But, to their credit, UT officials do not feel that is enough for a state where there will soon be no majority race. After the Grutter decision, UT decided to start considering race along with other factors.

There’s reason to think affirmative action programs could be in trouble with the Roberts Court. Justice O’Connor, the key swing vote in Grutter, has been replaced with arch-conservative Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elana Kagan has recused herself from this case, presumably because of her previous job as President Obama’s solicitor general. The Obama administration has supported Texas in the case and has advised colleges and universities that under the court’s 2003 decision they may still make some race-based decisions to expand campus diversity.

The Court will hear the case in the October term, meaning a decision will likely be an issue in the fall elections.

Related Stories:

Roberts Court May Review Affirmative Action Admissions

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Photo from derekskey via flickr.

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60 comments

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5:50AM PST on Jan 16, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:44AM PST on Feb 23, 2012

I got my first "management" job through Affirmative Action. It had always been a "boys' job"...and "everyone knew" women couldn't do it or didn't need the extra money it paid because they weren't "supporting families." BULLDROPPINGS!

But, sometimes I've wondered if it's not just as much a case of "payback" now...and if you read some of these comments, they're openly nasty to caucasians who rightly feel someone's discriminated against them.

In a time of limited space in universities, WHY must color be considered in placement? It's bad enough that illegal immigrants can compete for those seats in California, theoretically taking the spot of a legal citizen....but why is skin color that important?

If we're honest, the factor which gives us bias is really CULTURAL! We might feel differently if someone is from a family of solid middle-class values, compared to a child from a drug-riddled barrio. Be honest....wouldn't you?

I don't know the answer--all I know is this...there IS no such thing as "race." People with dark skins live all over the world and Africans come in all colors, too. If the beautiful actress, Charlize Theron immigrated here and became a citizen....would you call her "African-American?"

We all dance around this COLOR issue and we let it weigh far too heavily in areas of "affirmative action."

10:42PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

We need to actively seek to recruit 50%+ women until we can have that many women in positions by pure chance and we should seek to do the same for all groups that are underrepresented. If this makes flks uncomfortable, then we could always redistribute wealth until everyone was starting out foorm the same place and we could have a true merit society based on individual worth and effort.

10:12PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Drop afirmative action. If race really is not an issue, then drop it from applications entirely.

9:11PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Instead of making part of admissions race based, if they focused on getting disadvantaged but promising students in on scholarships, they would probably get a more diverse student body, and would not have to defend themselves against the anti-affirmative action folks.

8:53PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Yes I think affirmative action is still necessary, because thee is still a lot of racism in the US, and not just colour, but also gender!!

7:03PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Perhaps the best solution would be to strike all references to race on college applications so that the student is judged merely on merit. Hey, what about their gender? Or religion? Or hobbies, job experience or volunteer work? For example, is an applicant scored higher if they served in the military or if they volunteered in a soup kitchen?

Unfortunately there is no perfect system for college admissions; perhaps this is why students are told to pick at least three schools in case they don't get admitted to their first choice.

6:56PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Unfortunately, this country still needs affirmative action because yes; there is still incredible racism in this country. Affirmative action doesn't necessarily mean that someone better qualified will be passed over, (as stated in one of the posts) and that assumption clarifies one of the many reason why we are not ready to ban the law.

4:45PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

I wonder if there would be a better way to counter any biases based on race - what if university admissions were handled using double blinding; the method employed by scientific testing to eliminate biases?

The applications to the university could pass trhough an intermediary party that separated all the information that should not be relevant in the decision making, removing it from the final papers sent to the people making to the decision. The applicants would be given a simple code number that could, after the application has been approved or denied, be linked back to the personal information.

This way you could hide everything but the grades, and other academic factors from the decision making process, and there would not be any opportunity to discriminate, either consciously or unconsciously.

Human psychology is so riddled with biases we don't even notice, that I think blinding like this should be used whenever possible, in making any important selection decisions.

Just as an example of one bias of human psychology that has been recently demonstrated - if you are given a choise between two things, and they are presented to you side by side (and one choise is not OBVIOUSLY better than the other), you are more likely to select the option on the right side, if you are right handed, and the option on the left side, if you are left handed.

4:22PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Affirmative action should never have started in the first place! The employers should have the right to employ who they want to employ! And nobody should be able to get a job in front of someone who is better just because of their race, gender or whatever else affirmative action is for! Giving a job to someone who do not deserve it is not helping at all anyway! I have a low self-esteem but I never have accepted something that I did not deserve and never will either!

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