Affirmative action, prejudice by nature

If you were planning on dropping the race card with your application at the school’s admissions office —hold off, it may not have value in the diversifying world of education.

In 2008, Abigail Fisher was denied automatic admissions into the University of Texas at Austin because she did not meet the Top 10 percent program requirements.

Facing rejection from her dream university, Fisher decided to play the only card she felt was left — the race card. Although she did not meet the school’s academic expectations, Fisher claimed that the school practiced racial discrimination in favor of African-American, Hispanic and other minority students with lower test scores and grade point averages than their white counterparts.

In 2012, a lower circuit court ruled in favor of the competitive Texas school and enforced the guidelines established by Grutter v. University of Michigan Law School in 2003.

The Grutter decision ruled that colleges and universities supported, entirely or in part, by federal or state funds have the right to use race as a “plus factor” in reviewing student applications.

David Delgado// The Daily Cougar

David Delgado// The Daily Cougar

The judges acknowledged that race was a factor in the school’s admissions process, but that it was not the dominating one. The court felt that the school’s affirmative action policy was compelling for the greater interest of the state and effectively assisted in diversifying the school’s student body.

In June 2013 the Supreme Court, under Justice Anthony Kennedy, ruled indecisive on Fisher’s case. Apparently, the road to common good was not as smoothly paved this time around.

The judges questioned whether school administrators could objectively calculate the value of an applicant’s race and ethnicity with a neutral bias and consistent fairness.

The Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff’s case needed to be sent back to the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit to be reviewed again because of failure to exercise strict scrutiny of UT’s admissions process.

“The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity,” Kennedy wrote in his statement summarizing the rationality of the ruling.

Ultimately the court’s virtual indecision will have little to no direct effect on current affirmative action laws. Although the public was anticipating a decision on affirmative action from the court, the hearing left both parties feeling optimistic.

“We remain committed to assembling a student body at the University of Texas that provides the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students and acting within the constitutional framework established by the court,” University of Texas President Bill Powers stated in a press release.

Should the Fifth Circuit judges rule in favor of Fisher following their re-evaluation and race is eliminated as a plus factor for admission committees, it will most likely have little effect on UH students.

Diversity has become a proud staple of UH’s reputation. UH is tied with Stanford University as the second most diverse school in the nation, has surpassed the qualifications for a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education and is home to a variety of organizations that reflect the ethnically colorful landscape of the university.

Naturally, education is the foundation of the country because of its direct impact on the workforce. Although in a legal sense affirmative action policies influencing admissions at public schools have no ties with the hiring practices of private corporations, in a moral capacity it could raise questions about affirmative action laws across the board.

Affirmative action has become a sweeping topic amongst lawmakers, educators and academic institutions. There is general agreement that diversity is beneficial for classrooms on any level, but some would like to broaden the implications of school affirmative action policies to meet parallel agendas.

There are no notable cases challenging the constitutionality of racial quotas. A press release sent out by the Republican Leadership Committee states that the party has decided to embrace employment racial quotas in order to reach demographics that have been isolated by the GOP in the past.

Michael A. Olivas is a UH Law professor and a proud proponent of affirmative action policies. In an essay published on the Inside Higher Ed website days following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fishers case, Olivas expressed faith in the enduring functionality of affirmative action policies and the decision of moderate Justice Lewis Powell.

Justice Powell was the serving Supreme Court judge in the landmark affirmative action case Bakke vs. Regents of University of California back in 1978. Following the height of the civil rights movement the Bakke decision made it illegal to use racial quotas and racially discriminative practices in college admission reviews.

“There is no evidence that whites are displaced in the process, and those few who are affected likely have many alternatives, as Abigail Fisher did when she was admitted into Louisiana State University after she failed to get into the University of Texas at Austin,” Olivas wrote.

Olivas criticizes Fisher for portraying herself as a helpless white female avalanched by the desperate needs of the growing African-American and Hispanic population, but contradicts himself by rationalizing the needs of “minorities with real grievances.”

Race-based affirmative action policies are prejudice by nature, they promote victim mentality and herald specific minority groups as opposed to others.

These policies are blanket solutions that undermine the personal experiences of the individual. Experiences shape individuals and create aspects of their character that should be considered in college admission processes instead.

Olivas states in his piece that: “…over half the Top 10 percent admits are white, in a state where half the school children are not white.”

This raw statistic doesn’t reflect a bias or conservative admissions committee. However, it is a reflection of problems developed earlier in education that should be addressed in secondary schools, not at the doors of universities.

Ciara Rouege is an advertising junior and may be reached at [email protected].

Correction: The headline originally spelled Affirmative as Affirmatice

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