Color-coded or color-blind admissions? Supreme Court will take up the complex question.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to take up the question of affirmative action, revisiting race-conscious admissions outlined in Fisher v. the University of Texas.

In that 2013 case, the Supreme Court ruled that because the lower court did not hold the university to the “demanding burden of strict scrutiny articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger, and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, its decision affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment was incorrect.”

In a vote of 7 to 1, the court remanded the case back to the 5th Circuit for review under the “strict scrutiny” standard. The appeals panel decreed the use of race to bring diversity to campus has valid grounds, writing, “This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts…We are persuaded that to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience.”

The high court’s willingness to reconsider the issue re-ignites a polarizing debate that is far from resolved in America.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to reconsider affirmative action in college admissions.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to reconsider affirmative action in college admissions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The UT Austin case had its roots in a 2008 lawsuit by white student Abigail Fisher, denied admission to the flagship because she did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class. Seventy-five percent of students admitted to the Austin campus reflect the “talented 10” policy that assures spots to students graduating in the upper ranks of their high school class. Fisher also did not make the cut for the remaining 25 percent of admissions based on multiple considerations, including race.

The Supreme Court tackled affirmative action in 2003 when it held the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race as one factor in evaluating an applicant didn’t violate the bar on quotas set by the 1978 University of California v. Bakke decision. In the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, the Supreme Court found the University of Michigan had a compelling interest in ensuring admission of a “critical mass” of minority students.

Among those submitting amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in the Texas case is the Pacific Legal Foundation, which opposes race-based preferences in admissions. In a statement, Pacific Legal Foundation Principal Attorney Meriem L. Hubbard said:

“By taking up this case again, the Supreme Court is putting all publicly supported universities on notice that the courts will be watching if they use race-based discrimination or preferences in the admissions process. University officials can’t get away with a policy of color-coding their applicants, based merely on the unsupported claim that they don’t have any other way to bring about diversity on campus.  That claim has to be backed up by evidence – something UT officials haven’t been able to do. When the justices give the situation at UT-Austin a close look, they should conclude there is no justification for the race-based admissions policy, because alternative, colorblind strategies are available for achieving a diverse student body.

Ideally, the justices should use their second look at this case as an opportunity to reconsider the controversial precedents that allow race-based admissions in limited circumstances. The use of race in admissions at the University of Texas can’t be justified even under the court’s existing precedents, but it is time for a new ruling recognizing that judging students and applicants by their skin color, for any purpose or in any context, violates the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection of the law.”

I have written about this issue a lot over the years and come back to this point: Are college admissions ever fair?

As the AJC has documented in several reports, star athletes face a much lower bar to get into many colleges. Sought-after athletes are routinely admitted with lower SAT scores and grade point averages.

Colleges also re-calibrate their admissions standards for “legacy” students whose parents attended the campus or for children of a celebrity, a state leader or big donor.

How do we know Abigail Fisher lost the seat she felt she deserved at the University of Texas to a minority student? It could have been the niece of a Texas senator or a fleet-footed wide receiver.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

114 comments
GB101
GB101

Racial discrimination for the purpose of achieving diversity is no more legal than racial discrimination for the purpose of achieving homogeneity.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

I neglected to ask - is the top 10% based on GPA or SAT score - makes a big difference.

fishwrapper1920
fishwrapper1920

Please see this article in Slate for some background on Fischer:


http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/06/fisher_v_university_of_texas_the_supreme_court_might_just_gut_affirmative.html


If you want entrance to UT Austin and you live in Texas, you have three options: You can score in the top 10 percent of your high school class, which grants you automatic entry; you can try for the non–top 10 slots; or, if your grades are weak, you can attend a satellite campus and transfer, provided good grades and a strong course load.

With a 3.59 grade-point average and a modest SAT score of 1180 out of 1600, she was a solid student but not a great one, not for a school with an overall acceptance rate of 40 percent and an extremely low acceptance rate (comparable to Harvard’s) for in-state students admitted outside of top 10.


Of the 841 students admitted under the criteria for non-top 10 students, 47 had worse grades than Fisher, and 42 of them were white. On the other end, UT rejected 168 black and Latino students with scores equal to or better than Fisher’s.

Ameri Ca
Ameri Ca

consider two children of different races,  goes into same school and being taught every man/woman regardless of race, are created and should be treated equal all through school, until high school when they start their college application process. They are friends and study and play together and have similar interests and talents, and put similar efforts in their studies, apply to similar schools and keep their friendship. One belongs to the "favored" race and is admitted to selected colleges due to AA. The other doesn't belong to the "favored" race and get rejected because he is not good enough when measured with other qualified students from his own race. 

Put yourself into the shoes of this rejected kid. Will he be disappointed? Will he feel that he is wronged out of no fault of his own, but his skin color? Will he grow resentment against his friend? Will he keep his friendship with his friend? Will he start to think those principles that he has been taught in school about equality of race and opportunity is a lie? Will he grow up a racist?  He is wronged at a young age, as a powerless child at the receiver's end. When he grows up, gains political and economic status and own the power to decide other people's fate, do you expect him to be completely fair and inpartial? Do you want to blame him at that time? Does the education policy including college admission policy fail him and his cohorts, and set up their future failure when they were born?


Affirmative Action labels children at birth, some will have to work a lot harder to gain admission at selected colleges than others just because of the skin color. Skin color override all the qualifies that an individual bring in, talent, hardworking, leadership, empathy, ....

Life can be frustrated to the other child of "favored" race as well even he ends up in a selected college. He is capable, but it is hard for him to shake off people's perception that he has been an affirmative action recruit. That perception will continue to pop up throughout his life, and career. 

Admit unqualified students into highly selected college will not do these students any good. The mismatch is equivalent to throw a non-swimmer into deep water and wish him good luck to survive. Mismatch can increase the drop out rate of these students, who could have been much more successful at college of right level.


Affirmative action divide people, cutting into the heart of young children. 


All men and women are created equal. But some are more equal than others.


class80olddog
class80olddog

@Ameri Ca I am glad you posted this.  A lot of people say - well, you discriminated against blacks for years, now it is time for some evening up - let's discriminate against the whites.  Sort of like the Arabs and Israelis - and you can see how that is working out.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The PC language reminds me of a passage in the book "The Loo Sanction" where they are walking through a graveyard and the hero is reading all the headstones - "Passed on", "Went to a higher expression of life", "entered into eternity" and he said "Didn't any of them die?"

class80olddog
class80olddog

It occurs to me that if Georgia moved to the 10% rule, it would make sense for parents to move from East Cobb to some podunkville in North Georgia, where becoming one of the "top 10%" would be a lot easier.  Maybe where you taught, wascatlady? 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@class80olddog I would love it Georgia had some version of Texas' rule. My understanding is that the 10% level is a little high - at that level ALL they admit are 10%ers.


But I think it's entirely appropriate that, say, the top 3% of every public Georgia high school are automatically admitted to any Georgia public college.  There's no way that the number for Cobb or Gwinnett should be 150, while for some impoverished Georgia counties the number is zero.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@GB101 Actually, it's geographic discrimination in plain view.  Nothing wrong with that for a benefit provided by the State of Georgia.


class80olddog
class80olddog

"Complete Equality.  Everybody exactly alike." - IT, from A Wrinkle in Time

The goal of the PC crowd.

Starik
Starik

I've encountered many, many deprived kids in the past.  They're deprived in different ways; some run the streets because they're not supervised, mama being drunk or on drugs.  Most have no access to reading material at home at all. Many have inherited low IQs. The worst deprivation is where the local school is of little help because the students and many of the teachers have similar backgrounds. Even in the worst situations there are a few kids who are capable of great things, and if helped early enough will grow into useful citizens indeed.


Affirmative action in college admissions needs to start before puberty, and needs to be based on ability and attitude, not race, sex, or the condition of or absence of immigration paperwork.  The country will need the talent in the future.


Should privileged black kids get affirmative action?  Should non-privileged white, Hispanic and Asian kids be denied it?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik "absence of immigration paperwork." - you mean an "undocumented immigrant"?

The PC crowd makes it sound like they left their naturalization papers at home in their pants pocket.  Truth is that these are ILLEGAL ALIENS - they never had any documents to begin with and cannot obtain them. Thank goodness the Board of Regents excluded them from the flagship Universities or our sons and daughters would have more of an uphill battle for the limited space there.

class80olddog
class80olddog

If colleges are going to be in the social engineering business, maybe they should weed out the females who are just going for their MRS degree (do they still have those). Let the people who actually need a degree get them

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

Lord, this is so old-fashioned! I can't believe that someone today is referring to college women getting their "MRS. degree"!  That is so 1950s!!


I mean, get real.  All people going to college today "actually need a degree." 

class80olddog
class80olddog

They came up with the clever 10% rule to ensure that lesser qualified blacks could get enrolled over more qualified whites and then it but them in the butt on gender. How will they achieve gender equality without quotas?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@bu2 @class80olddog I guess if their goal is not to recruit "the best and the brightest", then that would be the case.  Of course, what is their 4 (or 5, or 6) year graduation rate after going to the 10% rule.  Isn't one of the things a college admission office is looking for is a person who is a good candidate to finish and graduate?  Or does that not matter as much as social engineering.

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog 

It was also a geographical issue so the rural legislators liked it.  The Texas president said, quoting loosely, We are the University of Texas, not the University of 20 suburban districts of Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas-Ft. Worth.

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog @bu2 

And the 10% rule wasn't a bolt from the blue.  It was a return to the past.  Back in the 70s, if you were in the top 10% you got admission regardless of your SAT score.  It was just as the school got more restrictive that went away.

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog @bu2 


Differences of experiences and different opinions are valuable.  They help you refine your own views.  When we get out of school, we tend to hang out with, live around  and work around people who think like us.  School is a place to explore.


Texas really was getting too many really serious, suburban, Republican leaning students.  I say that as someone who fit that category.  The city kids and rural kids were getting squeezed out.  Yes, it was a stronger group of students, but the value to the students was decreased.

GB101
GB101

@bu2 @class80olddog I have heard that argument also from a person who works for Ga's Board of Regents.  That is indeed a problem, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws racial discrimination.  The fact that the federal government, state governments and numerous corporations have been violating th law for 50 years doesn't justify the illegal activity. 


The law does not prohibit discrimination based on geography.  If Ga or Tex wants to have more students from rural areas there are ways to do.  They just can't break the law.  Or shouldn't.  

panthergir88
panthergir88

College admissions are always going to be holistic.  There is no black and white way to identify "the best student."  I don't believe race should be issue; however, I certainly think socio-economic class should be an issue.  I live in a very affluent area of south Forsyth county.  Its unbelievable all the advantages that these children have.  I have a neighbor who spends 5 weeks every summer in France.  I have a friend whose son wrote his college admissions essay on his experience swimming with the whale sharks off of the coast of Cabo.  I know someone else who spent $4,000 on private SAT tutoring for her child.  When one of children struggle with a class, we don't hesitate to spend $80 an hour for a tutor.  Heck one of my friends, hired a math tutor for her son for 3 years because he only had a grade of 87 in ninth grade math.  When these children make mistakes and get into trouble, their parents buy their way out of it.


So yes, I think that black children in APS and white children in poor, rural Georgia should be given some preference in college admissions just to begin to level the playing field.



OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@panthergir88 

My own sense is that the applicant's low SES often is a factor in admissions, in a positive way, when the test scores and GPA meet the school's requirements.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Careful, your prejudice is showing.

What is the difference between a bigot who hates blacks because of their skin color and a person who hates a student because their parents have money and use it?

bu2
bu2

@panthergir88 

I have no problem giving some advantage to a student with low SES.


I do have a problem giving someone favoritism simply because of the color of their skin.

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog 

There are two justifications for favoring those with low SES:

1) societal-helping those on the lower rungs have mobility; and

2) the quite logical idea that if you have two equal students, one from a wealthy family and one from a poor family, the one from the poor family probably has more upside in college.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@bu2 @class80olddog EQUAL is one thing - but when the scales point one way, do you lay a heavy hand on the other? Our Universities seem to be in the business of social engineering - forcing rich white female students to go to second-rate universities, while poor, black, male students who are academically inferior get to go to the flagships.

popacorn
popacorn

That's the mantra, anyway. 

GB101
GB101

@panthergir88 All that is (or should be) up to the institution, which has the right to decide its own mission and select its own student body, PROVIDED that it does not discriminate on the basis of race.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

Here is the weird thing about race.  What do you call a person who has a white father and a black mother?  Are they black or white?  What about a person who has three grandparents who are white and one who is black, but looks black?  Or vice versa - looks white when three grandparents are black? 

Some one said - the way to end discrimination is to quit discriminating.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

Remember that the applicants always self-identify as to race and ethnicity. Also, remember that there is a category of "Mixed," and many applicants use it... probably as much because they don't want to choose one race over another as anything else.



bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @class80olddog 

So you can pick and choose whichever is more beneficial.


My mother and her siblings generally self-identify as Anglo (My grandfather was Hispanic and his first language was Spanish).  But when her sister didn't get a job, she used being Mexican-American as a complaint and got the job.  Yet if it had been a Mexican-American mother instead of a Mexican-American father, she would not have been Hispanic surnamed and wouldn't have qualified.


A lot of this just really doesn't make any sense.

anothercomment
anothercomment

How about my cousins children: they are Black, Asian, and White. Guess who is the most privileged grandparent of all, not the two white ones related to me. The ones that helped their son gain custody and raise two beautiful children are just Middle class.

The Black grand father is a retired Air Force General, with his Japanese wife. They did not do anything but have the children for one week visit yearly. Their crazy daughter tried to stab, my cousin when these precious children were 2 and 4.

My cousin with the help of his parents immediately filed for divorce and full custody, so these children would not have to live in a cycle of violence and chaos. Aunt Betty watched the children for free so my cousin, until she passed away. My other aunt their Grandma, has mothered them as well. They have a. 1/2 sister who is all white they have all been brought up the same.

You never know today who has been brought up privileged.

anothercomment
anothercomment

My cousins child White, Asian, Black posted on Facebook a picture of a Panda Bear and said I am the same!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@bu2 @OriginalProf If they still defined it as they did with miscegenation laws, you could cut the finger of a black friend and drink a couple of drops of his/her blood and claim you are black, since you have more than a drop of black blood in you!  (my apologies to Showboat!)

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf @class80olddog 

She could still claim that she was Hispanic. Self-identification is what matters. 
She identifies with her Hispanic family sub-group, rather than her white family one.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Perhaps we move toward a strict cut off line: No top tier public college offers for admission anyone with a GPA less than 3.8, at least 2 AP courses with a 4 or better, an SAT of 1300/1600 or better, an IQ of 125, 500 hours of unpaid volunteer work while holding down a part-time job, and 3 letters of recommendation from US Congresspersons or the Pope.


Except, of course, no one else will follow those rules, and they would result in little financial aid being needed, and few football games being won.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Too bad that they did not give extra points to "white trash who grew up in a trailer" - I would have received plenty of points but no I had to work my rear-end off to make decent grades to get admitted to college.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@MiltonMan 

Actually, nowadays if the applicant had indicated this in the required letter (though maybe omitting the word "trash"), it would most probable work to his advantage.

Signed In
Signed In

Shouldn't college blacks likewise receive final course grades comparable to those of whites—especially white liberals? 

How much longer will we accept the excuse that whites and Asians with superior grade point averages simply study harder?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @Signed In Lazier - there is not indication that there are IQ differences between men and women, just like there are no differences between whites and blacks in IQ.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Signed In Women get higher grades.  Does that mean they study more, or are smarter than men?  Which is it?  Are men dumber or lazier?