I have spoken a lot about the core of the issue of affirmative action in the workplace and the college admissions process. There are a lot of sides to this issue, and a lot of moral and legal questions that surround it. These questions have boiled up to another Supreme Court case today that is awaiting a ruling: Fisher v. University of Texas. This is a tricky case that will certainly have an impact no matter the ruling on all college admissions processes. Here are the details on the case:
Abigail Fisher, a Texas native, filed a law suit in 2008 against the University of Texas at Austin. She was denied admission to the school and claims to have been denied the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. She claims that because of her race, she was denied admission into the school. This claim is very hard to prove, but Fisher has a good case. At University of Texas, there is a program which requires the automatic acceptance of students who went to high schools in the state of Texas and who graduated in the top ten percent of their graduating class. If Fisher was in the top ten percent of her class, she would have been accepted automatically. However, she was in the top TWELVE percent of her class. Very close, but failing to make this cutoff means she is subjected to many factors of the regular admissions process such as merit, grades, service acts, and of course, race. Fisher had good grades (Barely missing the cutoff for automatic acceptance), had a good resume, and her SAT scores were right in the median range of scores for accepted applicants at the University. It seems like, even though she didn’t make the cutoff, that she should have been admitted for she fit all the criteria for the admissions process. She was denied and has pointed to the only factor in admissions that gave her a disadvantage: her race.
The University argues that their admissions process is fair based on the previous ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger. This ruling simply states that schools are not allowed to set quotas for each race in admittance, but can admit a “critical mass” of a certain race. This critical mass is defined as a large enough number of a certain racial group in the college that would allow individuals within the racial group to feel as though they are not alienated. In essence, schools can predetermine how many people of each race they want to admit, but can put preference on a certain race in admissions if they feel they have not reached a such critical mass. To many, a critical mass is just another name for a quota, but proponents of the critical mass theory say that with a critical mass, individual achievement still remains a constant factor of admissions throughout the whole process while quotas may simply focus on race.
Fisher’s lawyers are arguing that the critical mass theory is bogus and is just backward logic to define what is actually a race quota. They also argue that by putting preference on someone in admissions based on their race, schools are not affording each person equal protection under the law. It seems as though Fisher’s side is making an argument saying that the current law in not fair and unconstitutional while the University is saying that they are just following the rules set by the previous court’s ruling. In the oral arguments, it was said that the Justices wished to hear more from the University’s side that justify using affirmative action, but found the University’s answers lacking.
Full Fisher: The court will overrule the Grutter v. Bollinger case and will make affirmative action unconstitutional in the college admissions process. Schools will have to use other factors to determine how diverse a student can make the University other than race.
Full University of Texas: The court will rule that the current Affirmative Action policies are constitutional and that schools may continue using race as a factor of admission. This would say that Affirmative Action is not against the 14th Amendment.
No Standing ruling: The court may also dismiss the case. Before they can rule on the constitutionality of the issue, they must determine if Fisher has standing in the case. This means that Fisher must prove that she is directly effected by the actions she is accusing the University of. That is, she must prove that race was the only factor that denied her entry into the school. This case has passed through the lower courts without this ruling, but experts say it is still possible, and would essentially be a victory for the University because affirmative action policies would not change.
Please let me know how YOU think the court should rule. The last blog will talk about the potential impacts of the ruling of this case and how affirmative action (or lack thereof) will effect college admissions in the future.