On October 31, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which are being sued over the legality of affirmative action. A Supreme Court ruling that affirmative action is unconstitutional would prevent institutions like Tufts from cultivating diversity within their student body.
Affirmative action allows colleges and universities to consider an applicant’s race as one of many factors when considering their application. It originated in a 1965 executive order that required government contractors to “take affirmative action” to ensure equal opportunity in employment. However, in 1976, affirmative action in college applications was challenged in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke when the UC Davis School of Medicine reserved 16 spots for minority students. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that racial quotas were illegal under the Civil Rights Act, although the court ruled that it was constitutional to consider race as an admissions factor as long as there is no had no quota. This case set a legal precedent that will remain relatively stable until today.
The recent ideologically conservative leaning decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization rolled back federal abortion protections. Affirmative action, widely favored by Democratic voters and opposed by Republicans, is now also under threat. While it is important to point out that Supreme Court justices do not explicitly subscribe to any political party or ideology, a strong argument can be made that the court is currently biased in favor of conservatives. On the current court, six of the current nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents and hold broadly right-wing views. Due to the makeup of the court and the fact that affirmative action has been denounced by many influential conservatives such as unsuccessful 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters, affirmative action supporters have strong reason to fear that the current conservative Supreme Court does not suppress the practice.
Affirmative action is a crucial part of the admissions process to higher education institutions. Currently, 41.5% of universities in the United States consider race in admissions. This number is accentuated only in the most competitive universities – 60% of universities that have an acceptance rate of 40% or a lower race factor when evaluating applicants. Affirmative action is essential in these high-level institutions that have historically been predominantly white, as it allows schools to continue to build ethnic and racial diversity. Take, for example, states where affirmative action has already been banned. In Michigan, race-conscious admissions to public universities have been banned since 2006. Since then, diversity has declined rapidly, with enrollment of black undergraduate students dropping from 7% in 2006 to 4% in 2021. This change enrollment occurred despite the number of college-aged African Americans in Michigan rising from 16% to 19%.
The overriding argument against affirmative action is relatively simple—the consideration of race in college admissions crosses the line of racial discrimination. However, in my opinion, affirmative action is best viewed in terms of equality versus equity. Equality is the belief that everyone should be treated the same, while equity states that those who need help the most should receive the most help. In an ideal world without racism or under-representation, it would make sense that the ethnicity of candidates would not be taken into account. Yet America’s past, and unfortunately its present as well, show that discrimination exists, especially for racial and ethnic minorities. Therefore, affirmative action is a fair way for minorities to eventually achieve parity in the college application process and ultimately use their education to strengthen their position in the social hierarchy and economic.
The court has just heard arguments in the Harvard and UNC cases — which have been consolidated into a single joint session — so its decision will likely be handed down in June. Depending on the outcome, the class of 2028 and beyond will be affected. Tufts University has deposit an amicus brief—additional writing that complements a legal argument—in favor of affirmative action, showing support for Harvard and UNC. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” If the Supreme Court prevents the next generation of underrepresented minorities from having a fair chance at higher education, the moral arc of the universe will get a little longer.
#case #affirmative #action #Tufts #Daily