Columns / Discourse / October 17, 2012

Debating columnists: Affirmative action

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 ( 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.

Alex Uzarowicz
Alex Uzarowicz has been a weekly conservative political columnist for The Knox Student for three years. He also writes for The College Conservative. Alex will graduate in June 2013 with a degree in political science, after which he will head abroad to begin his Peace Corps service.

Tags:  affirmative action College diversity ethnic higher education

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Oct 19, 2012

I’m not sure how this column debates the constitutionality of Affirmative Action aside from quoting the 14th amendment.

The issue that Asian Americans aren’t listed as a minority is strange, but that does little to further any point.

In truth, the largest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action are white women, which indicates that gender seems to be more regarded than race.

If Ms. Fisher was qualified for admittance in the first place, it would be safe to assume that she would have benefited from her gender.

That being said, the only problem I would see in the case is that the University limits its use of Affirmative Action to African Americans and Latinos, not that it has Affirmative Action.

So again, how else are you arguing that it is unconstitutional?

Oct 19, 2012

I agree with Rana’s comment, especially the fact that affirmative action has been documented to have historically benefited white women more than any other group in regards to both education and job opportunities, but I also object to “colorblindness” being the proposed solution. There’s already been decades of research that’s debunked the effectiveness of “colorblindness” so I won’t regurgitate it all but I will say that, in 2012, to ignore the effect race can have on someone’s life is to condone the system that produces those circumstances.

Checking off your race is not meant to set you back or give you a “leg up” (unless by “leg up” you mean “put you on equal footing,” considering how low the qualifying groups have been kept); it is meant to provide a lens through which your application can be read. It contextualizes you the same way your statement of purpose or cover letter do. To deny that lens is to effectively erase a facet of that applicant’s identity and give you an incomplete, and often inaccurate, view of them.

Colleges that care about admitting students who “fit” the community they’re trying to build will, and should, care about things like race, gender/sex, and class. They will care enough to try to understand all the things that make you who you are. How else can they make an informed decision?

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