U.S. Supreme Court upholds use of race in college admissions

In long-awaited decision that came down last month, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the educational rights of students with special needs.

In a 4-3 decision this morning, the Supreme Court upheld the race-conscious admissions approach used at the University of Texas, Austin.

In 2008, white student Abigail Fisher sued after she was denied admission to the Texas flagship because she did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class.  She contended she was denied because she was white.

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 did not make the cut for the remaining 25 percent of admissions based on multiple considerations, including leadership, extracurriculars, honors, socioeconomic status, family composition and race.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., dissented.

An argument against the Texas program was affirmative action hurt the very students it set out to help — poor and minority kids —  by increasing their access to colleges that were too tough for them.

Indeed, the late Justice Antonin Scalia raised the issue during oral arguments in the Fisher case. “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well,” he said.  “One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”

Scalia was not alone in that contention. Parents whose kids did not get into the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech often complain their high-achieving child lost out to a less qualified minority student with lower ACT or SAT scores who will struggle at these competitive campuses.

Are there instances where a highly qualified suburban student lost out because UGA or Tech admitted a minority or poor student with lower test scores in an effort to prevent their campuses from looking like collegiate versions of Lambert or Northview high schools?

Probably.

But here’s the important fact: It is not that these admitted students are unqualified; they may have lower ACT scores,  but they have shown academic excellence and dedication despite few of the advantages enjoyed by their affluent peers. They did not go to math camp or ACT prep. They did not have parents who began planning for college when they were still in cribs.

Yet, they worked hard and attained strong grades. Yes, their high schools may be second-rate when compared to powerhouse Cobb or Forsyth schools, but their personal efforts were not.

And their college performance proves that.

As I wrote yesterday, a new study out of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that placing average students in the nation’s best colleges and universities will increase their rate of graduation by 26 percent. The report says lower scoring African-Americans and Hispanics — many from low-income backgrounds —  perform much better when placed in academically challenging environments, even when other students are predominantly white (75 percent), and affluent (56 percent of students come from the nation’s wealthiest families).

In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said universities have to be able to shape their student bodies. “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” he wrote.

In her lawsuit, Fisher alleged the University of Texas admitted five black and Latino students with lower scores and grades than her. What is lost in this debate: The university also admitted 42 whites with lower scores and grades than Fisher. Apparently, those 42 students brought something unique or special to the table the university valued and felt would enrich the campus.

I don’t get the singular focus on race. We could also focus on the kids admitted because they play the tuba or live in rural Texas or volunteer 20 hours a week at an animal shelter. Yet, it’s the perception that minority applicants have an edge that riles up people and sparks the greatest backlash.

Reader Comments 0

87 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"The University of Texas at Austin is committed to an educational and working environment that provides equal opportunity to all members of the university community. In accordance with federal and state laws, The University of Texas at Austin does not discriminate on the basis of gender in recruitment or admissions and prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, citizenship and veteran status. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is also prohibited pursuant to university policy."


I guess key words are "unlawful discrimination".   As long as the politically correct courts are okay with it, they are free to discriminate against white applicants at will.

Karen J. Wilson
Karen J. Wilson

Welcome to our (black folk) world. We just got used to it as it has been going on for soooo long.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

So, the liberal section of the USSC has decided that "shall not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity" doesn't really mean that.  In the interim until Trump is elected, if your child is on the bubble, tell them to declare "African American Studies" as their major.  They will be almost guaranteed to be the top academic candidate and a shoo-in for admissions.  Once enrolled, they can transfer to another degree program after a couple of semesters.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 

That won't work unless said child also has the top GPA and test scores now required. More importantly, applicants aren't asked about their future majors.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@OriginalProf @Lee_CPA2

"...applicants aren't asked about their future majors."


Uhm, no.  Maybe in open admissions community colleges, but any competitive university that provides multiple schools of education are going to ask the applicant of their intended major.  If they did not do this, certain schools would dry up from lack of students.

Anthony Beron
Anthony Beron

Her admissions essay entitled, "Texas is God's Land aka Mine" may have been just a touch presumptuous.

Stewie8991
Stewie8991

Obviously we don't focus on kids who live in rural Texas or play the tuba or volunteer 20 hours a week because this is something anyone can do. That's called merit based qualifications. Race you CAN NOT change. You're basically told to work hard only to be usurped by a lesser qualified individual. Everyone likes to pretend both candidates will be exactly equally qualified except for race but the more common truth is they are NOT.

LaKeisha
LaKeisha

And...as expected...the exact same justices who ruled (in the gay marriage case) that everyone should be treated equally, turned right around and ruled (in this affirmative action case) that...well...we didn't really mean EQUAL equal.  Some can be a little "more equal" than others.

Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher

I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't even be required to provide your race or ethnicity. What does it add or detract from a person's qualifications?

John Pate
John Pate

AJC post another race baiting story. Please continue to try to keep the races divided.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

When do they start using gender given that so few boys are going to college.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

They are using gender. From the Washington Post in 2009: Do college admissions officers discriminate against girls? By Valerie Strauss Is it easier for boys to get accepted into college than it is for girls? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is yes, at least at some colleges. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has just begun investigating admissions practices to see if schools are favoring boys. It is starting by looking at admissions records from a dozen unnamed universities, mostly in the Washington, D.C. area, according to a recent report from Inside Higher Ed. We know that girls constitute 57 percent of the students in higher education, and that females earn 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees. Many more girls apply to college than boys, yet colleges like to maintain gender balance, meaning that a larger percentage of male applicants are taken than female. For example, according to data that is online in the Common Data Set, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., receives almost twice as many applications from girls each year as it does from boys. While the statistics for the 2009 entering class are not yet available, stats for the freshman classes for the three previous years before show that the percentage of male applicants admitted to the college is much higher than for girls.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Maureen has had several blog-threads on that topic last year.

bu22
bu22

The reality of it is that these policies hurt Asians, white females and the poor.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/06/23/affirmative-action-advocates-shocked-and-thrilled-by-supreme-courts-ruling-in-university-of-texas-case/ 

"Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and self-described progressive, believes that the decision could hurt the prospects of low-income students, who are underrepresented on the nation’s campuses. By allowing the continued use of race as a factor in admissions, he argues, the court has discouraged colleges from finding other ways to promote diversity — such as through preferences for students who are poor.

Focusing solely on race means that colleges now admit students of many races who are mostly affluent, Kahlenberg said: Students from the richest quarter of the population outnumber students from the poorest quarter by 24 to 1, he said."

bu22
bu22

So you don't understand when people get upset because colleges discriminate on the basis of race??????

Starik
Starik

When will racial preferences end?

Kutina Williams
Kutina Williams

NO! Who would do such a racist thing as to deny a person in America because of their race? Get out of here. SERIOUSLY! You must be kidding or talking about a country that is controlled by idiots, bigots, and plain ole stupidity. Well, you can educate ignorance, you can medicate sickness, but stupidity, it's just out there and it's GENERATIONAL!!!! You were born with it and 9 out of 10 will die with it, if they don't leave home and kindred. You see, GOD ask Abraham to leave his people and that's when Abraham was blessed because he trust GOD. Abraham was righteousness, you better read your Bibles and allow Papa and Memaw go on about their business. They are not going to change, it's ingrained!

Na Smith
Na Smith

Affirmative Action has ruin America because you have to choose someone whos black instead of someone who is qualified for the job . The one race that is always looking for hand outs

Na Smith
Na Smith

Rochelle Amos im aure thats what you want to belive always blind to the truth

Scotty Gray
Scotty Gray

I know! Like, it must be so hard to put a burger in a bag and hand it to a customer.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One of my internships in grad school was to do academic advisement.  In the College of Education at this school, MALE prospective teachers had to reach a much much lower bar than female prospectives, JUST TO GET ADMITTED INTO THE PROGRAM AND TAKE THE CLASSES.

insideview
insideview

Let's not pretend colleges have not discriminated against minorities. If they didn't we would need affirmative action. 

Stewie8991
Stewie8991

@insideview Only problem is when you are piling systematic discrimination on top of certain minorities that already face discrimination (aka east asians and south asians)

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Race is one factor in college admissions, along with gender, socio-economic class, and region of the country. "Diversity" is sought for the good of the rest of the student body, not just the applicant. It benefits the learning process to expose student to diverse viewpoints. 


As a retired professor, I can testify that it's BORING to teach a classroom full of students who are all one race and one social class and one gender, no matter which race, class, or gender it is.

GB101
GB101

@OriginalProf This is nonsense.  "Diversity" is a smokescreen to justify racial discrimination.  


Can you show me where in the law (I mean the law enacted by Congress) that says racial discrimination is permitted in order to promote a racially diverse student body?


Whether or not you find something boring is not a legal argument.  

La Necole Miller
La Necole Miller

If that's the case she should know how blacks feel having to go through stuff because of our skin color

Eboni Jay
Eboni Jay

Say it again especially when it comes to the job field

Scotty Gray
Scotty Gray

You aren't employable because you're lazy. I wouldn't hire you to pick cotton.

Stewie8991
Stewie8991

 Once again making the mistake that race = economic situation. Affirmative action mainly benefits well off blacks and Hispanics. And of course people will probably write off Abigail as a spoiled white girl while ignoring the bigger picture. You shouldn't fight discrimination with legal discrimination. Everyone will probably also forget that Asians are the MOST discriminated against by affirmative action, but according to the media, Asians =/= minorities. Don't we all know that "diversity" = black?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Stewie8991 

In the court of law, affirmative action has mainly benefited white females who have brought sexual discrimination lawsuits against corporations and schools.

Stewie8991
Stewie8991

@redweather @Stewie8991 I personally would be a fan of affirmative action based on class. It would actually be a helpful tool rather than just rewarding wealthy blacks and punishing poor asians.

bu22
bu22

@OriginalProf @Stewie8991 But the studies show that in college admissions, white females (like Ms. Fisher) suffer discrimination now.

bu22
bu22

@Stewie8991 @redweather When you read the comments from the University of Texas, they are upset they can't get more of the upper middle class Blacks.  Its not the poor Blacks they are trying to get.  The 10% rule allows some socio-economic diversity, but they look at skin color when they go beyond that.

GB101
GB101

@OriginalProf @Stewie8991 In these cases the issue is not affirmative action, so called.  It is discrimination.  


In university admissions many institutions used to discriminate on the basis of sex, maybe they still do.  They discriminated AGAINST women.  The females had better grades than the males and the schools wanted a balance.  UGA was forced to stop this practice.  

AhmirHaddad
AhmirHaddad

@redweather And yet, the ethnic group that has the highest level of academic achievement...for the last three years, at least...are African immigrants, who even beat out the Asians.
Just in the last couple of years the national media have featured stories on three different African immigrants who have been offered scholarships to many of the Ivy League universities. And most African immigrants (including the three mentioned) live in poverty and attend heavily-segregated schools. The only real assets they have going for them are a tremendous gratefulness to be in the U.S. (with all the opportunities that brings), and a cultural background that values education and hard work.

Jewelean Lowery
Jewelean Lowery

Blacks need to start during too if that's the case ,this is a racist world god help us all

Omar K. Ali
Omar K. Ali

I'm just here to count the idiots that won't read past the headline. " Fisher alleged the University of Texas admitted five black and Latino students with lower scores and grades than her. What is lost in this debate: The university also admitted 42 whites with lower scores and grades than Fisher. Apparently, those 42 students brought something unique or special to the table the university valued and felt would enrich the campus." She couldn't even hit the top ten percent of her own high school, but thinks she deserved to be at UT. Also not mentioned, she was accepted to LSU, but it wasn't her first choice.

Eboni Jay
Eboni Jay

That's that privilege card I was talking about. She didn't deserve the spot but still felt she should've gotten in.. smh

Travis K. Davis
Travis K. Davis

Well she also thought she would get in because she is a legacy, not! #StayMadAbby and #ByeAbby

Scotty Gray
Scotty Gray

Well she got paid. And you all play that race card like a fiddle too so.......

Lindsey Banos
Lindsey Banos

I'll save you the click. The school admitted 42 white kids with lower scores than her, yet she's complaining about a handful of minority kids (of course). Lower in "test scores" but I'm willing to bet they were higher in all the other criteria. This was nothing more than a spoiled brat who didn't get her way having a fit. Mommy and daddy never told her no, and she's only learning to deal with it now as an adult. What's worse is shes trying to gain fame by using by using half informed ignorance at its best, and judging by the comments, it's working.

Johnnie Bee
Johnnie Bee

Getting something because of your race is just as racist as being denied because of your race.