As students, we know what matters in our college decision. Try to look back before coming to Knox College. You probably thought of your grade point average, class rank, student activities, artistic talents, Advanced Placement courses and last but not least your standardized test scores, be it ACT or SAT. But did you ever think of your race as a factor?
Well, some colleges and universities take that into consideration.
Since the Supreme Court decision of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978, the Court has grappled with whether or not race can be used as a factor in the admissions process in order to promote diversity in the student body (http://tinyurl.com/bl59veq). Bakke established the precedent that race can be a factor but not the sole factor. Any kind of racial quota is unconstitutional.
Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School (1996) expanded the argument from Bakke and rejected the premise that educational diversity is a public interest. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision from the 5th Circuit Court with Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and found that race can be used as a factor. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion and believed that the University of Michigan Law School did not violate the Equal Protection Clause from the 14th Amendment because their admission process was highly individualized. Case closed? Not so fast.
Abigail Fisher is currently challenging the University of Texas’ admissions decision. Even though Fisher graduated from the Louisiana State University, she believes that the University of Texas did not accept her because she was white. As Fisher’s lawyer said, “If any state action should respect racial equality, it is university admission.”
The problem with this case is that Fisher did not meet the 8 percent class rank threshold that guarantees admission to any public university in Texas. Fisher was in her top 12 percent with a 3.59 GPA out of 4.0 and graduated 82nd in a class of 674 classmates. The University of Texas believed that she did not meet their academic standards. Yet there is something to be said about the race factor.
Under the University of Texas’ admission standards, Asian Americans are not included as a minority group. As Supreme Court Justice Alito rightly pointed out in last week’s Supreme Court argument, the university is actively seeking blacks and Latinos. The lawyer arguing on behalf of the university, Greg Garre, responded by saying, “We’ve looked to whether or not we have a critical mass of underrepresented minorities.” Asians are not given the same attention as other races.
That’s unconstitutional. Race should not give someone a leg up in the admission process. Like Bakke decided, race should be one of the many factors for admission. But the problem with the University of Texas is that it rejects the view that being an Asian American does not qualify you to be part of their diversity based decision. Not having Asian Americans under this policy promotes favoritism and racial balancing which was held unconstitutional by the court in Parents v. Seattle School (2007). Chief Justice Roberts cited in this case Milliken v. Bradley by saying, “The Constitution is not violated by racial imbalance in the schools, without more.”
As good of a cause racial diversity may be, the law is loud and clear with the 14th Amendment. Our Equal Protection Clause states that there is strict scrutiny “if it is based on race, national origin, or, in some situations, non U.S. citizenship.” The University of Texas has made a decision based on race that those who are not black or Latino do not have the same treatment as those like Fisher, a white woman, or any Asian American.
Decisions ought to be made based on merit. Our law must be colorblind. Affirmative action does the complete opposite. It tries to promote diversity, but it does this at the cost of those who may be more qualified for a law school, for example. There are racial implications in the admission process, but they in effect promote racial favoritism. That’s unconstitutional.