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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Columns

Affirmative on affirmative action


The Abigail Fisher case has reached the Supreme Court. Fisher claims in her lawsuit, filed against the University of Texas at Austin, she was discriminated against and denied acceptance into the university because she is white.

Fisher vs. The University of Texas at Austin is soaking up the national spotlight. The way the court decides could change the way selective schools handle admissions in a historic way, possibly eliminating affirmative action for good. As expected, the debate has divided the country.

Diversity is obviously important, and in attending UH, we know that firsthand.

College is just as much about mixing ideas with students of different places and backgrounds as it is about going to class and learning from your professors.

And if the demographic at UT was remarkably balanced — proving its consideration of race has been effective — then it would have a better argument. But, according to the enrollment report, while Hispanics and Asian Americans combined made up roughly 40 percent of UT students in 2011, African Americans made up only 4.6 percent.

The choice to consider race seems to not have provided its intended results thus far. African Americans are still severely outnumbered on UT’s campus. So perhaps UT should reconsider the way its admission process since the balance is clearly not there.

But if the absence of African-American students undermines UT’s consideration of race, then it undermines Fisher’s argument as well. The conclusion doesn’t shift in her direction after considering the numbers; it dissipates altogether based on a faulty premise.

UT used to automatically accept students who graduated high school in the top 10 percent of their class. Their website denotes it’s recently been cut to 8 percent.

Fisher did not graduate her high school in the top 10 percent and was thrown into the mix of students who competed under holistic review for the school’s remaining spots.

According to The Alcalde, UT’s alumni magazine, those spots only make up a quarter of incoming students, and the percentage of minority students admitted is smaller.

If any discrimination did occur like Fisher claims, it would have been less likely to happen in her bracket of students than anywhere else. Race is one of many considerations UT and other Texas colleges take into account, and the process seems to be more complicated than Fisher thinks.

There could have been many reasons Fisher didn’t get accepted into UT. To immediately jump to race is presumptuous and inequitable.

The problem is bigger than just Fisher and her favorite school. The blurry relationship between race and higher education is still evolving, and it’s an issue our country needs to understand clearly.

It’s not like UT is accepting unqualified students over those more qualified; each student accepted to the school deserves to be there. UT is simply trying to be fair to people of all backgrounds and to ensure its students aren’t limited in their cultural exposure.

Though both sides make convincing points, it comes down to how important diversity is to a person or university.

While UT still needs work, there are a number of other Texas colleges whose students benefit from this type of selectivity.

The idea of race having an impact on such an important decision definitely raises concern. But colleges should be as diverse as our country, and without affirmative action, the inequalities of society would prevent that from happening.

Lucas Sepulveda is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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