For this civic issues blog, I chose topic of education. I will focus on mainly secondary education and the racial/diversity aspect of college life. For my “This I Believe” podcast, I spoke about how I am a strong advocate for the abolishment of affirmative action, so I will start off there.
Some background information on this topic is necessary in order to form or express opinions about it. Currently, public and private universities can use race as a consideration factor in the college admission process. This was the case for decades as affirmative action sprung up a result of the civil rights movement, and was unchallenged until 2003 where we had two important Supreme Court cases dealing with the University of Michigan.
The two cases were Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. Without going into the intimate details about the case, I will explain the effect of each case. It was common at the time for schools and universities to have a point-based admission system. Simply put, if you had a GPA above 3.0 you got a certain amount of points. If you had a 4.0 you got even more. Being captain of your sports team gave you some points while having a disciplinary record may lose you some points. At the end of the day, if you didn’t have X number of points, you would not be admitted. At the time, University of Michigan Law School had this point system, but also gave points based on race. If you were white you simply got no points while minority races received more points because of their race.
Well this bias system of admissions was bound to make some people angry, and it was in 2003 where we saw a movement against it. The first case, Grutter, was simply protesting the use of race as a factor in admissions while the second case, Gratz, protested the point system. The Supreme Court’s decision was one that tried to satisfy the most amount of people it could, but upheld affirmative action. The Court “reaffirmed that universities may take race into consideration as one factor among many factors when selecting incoming students.” While stating that the point system was “not narrowly tailored to achieve the university’s asserted interest in diversity.” (civilrights.org). In plain English, they said that schools can consider race as a factor but not use the point system.
If you are like me, you are scratching your head wondering why this is was ruled the way it was. If schools are allowed to consider race, then why not use a point system? Does that make it less constitutional? The Court thought so. That’s all that matters. The reason why the Court ruled in favor of affirmative action is because by providing a diverse learning environment, a university can provide a better learning environment. And since the primary goal of an academic institution is to provide an education, this was constitutional.
I really do understand this side of the argument and I feel both sides of this issue make valid points, which I will get into in the next edition of this blog.
Today, the issue of Affirmative Action has been brought back into the Supreme Court in the case Fisher v. University of Texas. In this case, a young woman is claiming that she was not admitted into the university because of her race and that it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. She claims to have been deprived of opportunity because of her race and that if race was not considered in admissions, she certainly would have been admitted. The ruling on this case could be coming up in the next few months and could potentially change the admissions process for high school students if the Court changes it mind.
Like I said, I will go into the debate of this issue next week, but I do pose a question:
Is it constitutional/does it deny non-minorities Equal Protection if they are denied from a university ONLY because of their race so that the university can foster a diverse and positive educational environment?