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Monday, July 8, 2013
Supreme Court Rules on Affirmative Action
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the college affirmative action case, side-stepping an all-out ban on the use of race consideration in college admissions. What the court did do was to make the use of race in college admissions considerably more difficult.
Universities will now be subjected to the highest level of legal scrutiny when making admissions decisions based solely on the race of a candidate. This decision did not come as a huge surprise. Proponents of affirmative action say that the ruling will make it effectively impossible to allow race as a factor. Opponents of the policy claim that the ruling did not go far enough.
However, the net effect of the ruling is essentially the same. Because it will now be so much more difficult for universities to consider race in their admissions policies, schools will have to get creative in finding new ways to maintain a racially diverse student body. This would have been the case if the court had, in fact, decided to abolish affirmative action in its entirety.
As expected, schools in Texas (and elsewhere), will likely turn their focus to "class" in order to add dimension to their graduating classes. For better or worse, race and socioeconomics track together in the US, with people of color falling disproportionately occupying the lower income brackets. By targeting socioeconomics, schools may be able to achieve the same end.
The idea of artificially creating diversity in third-level education may be a partisan issue, but it also has many practical proponents. In friends-of-the-court briefs, several large corporations supported the idea, citing the importance of a diverse workforce in today's global economy. The Obama administration proffered a similar argument, noting the need for racial diversity in the nation's military officer corps.
Achieving this diversity may have just become a little bit more challenging. But not impossible.
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