Racial Admission Preferences: Constitutional or Not? | Tech US News

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Supreme Court
People line up to hear oral arguments, including the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, at the Supreme Court in Washington October 15, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court will delve into a decades-old debate over college admissions policies that they favor race. minority, is handling a case in Michigan that picks up where the justices left off last session in the University of Texas dispute. |

Should the race of a minority student applying to a college or university give a strong advantage over other applicants? That’s the question a group of students and their parents are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to address. They want the court’s answer to be unequivocal, no.

There are two examples Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. Who are these customers?

The plaintiffs are members of the non-profit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA). They are applicants who have been denied admission, or are likely to be denied admission, to the two schools that are charged — Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The students claim that the reason they were rejected is because these schools give preference to members of minority racial groups. These students are not members of these groups and claim that their academic qualifications are clearly better than those admitted from the preferred groups. They argue that such an admissions approach violates either the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The students and their legal counsel are asking the court to reject the position and reasoning of the last case in which the court allowed race to play a role in admissions — Grutter v. Bolinger (2003).

How did we get to this point?

In the early 1970s, Allan Bakke, a prospective medical student seeking admission to the UC Davis School of Medicine, sued the school after being rejected twice. Bakke challenged the practice of reserving a certain number of seats in the entering class for minority applicants, even though their grades and academic records were worse than his. Although Bakke won, the Supreme Court’s opinion, Regents of the University of California v. Bakkehas brought decades of confusion to college and university admissions across the country.

The decision was a rarity, described as “4-1-4.” Two groups of justices, four conservatives and four liberals, disagreed on the result. The opinion by the ninth justice, Lewis Powell, was an attempt to combine parts of the two groups’ opinions to allow for an overall decision.

As a result, part of Powell’s opinion agreed with conservative justices who said that race could not be the sole or isolated factor on which a positive admissions decision could be based. The numerical quotas were unconstitutional and the special reservations used by UC Davis were not in use.

At the same time, Powell joined the liberal wing in saying that race can be a “factor” along with many others in the admissions decision. He also rejected the liberal justices’ contention that racial preferences were necessary to overcome past racial discrimination. But he allowed a diverse student body to create a “powerful exchange of ideas,” in other words, the kind of intellectual diversity that was desirable for an educational institution. The result was that “both sides claimed at least a partial victory.”

Bakke’s ambiguity continued until 1998, when two young women, Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz, represented by the Center for Individual Rights, challenged the University of Michigan’s racially preferential admissions practices. Nor were they members of minority groups. Both applied to Michigan, but were unsuccessful. Gratz was rejected by an undergraduate college in Michigan, and Grutter was denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School. The cases reached the Supreme Court in the 2002-2003 term. Unfortunately, the court perpetuated the confused estate Grandmothers. In both cases, the applicant’s race was allowed to be maintained as a plus for admission. However, in Thank you the court ruled in favor of Jennifer Gratz because an undergraduate college at University M made race “determinative” in admissions decisions through a point system the opinion called “mechanical.”

However, the court upheld the law school’s admissions practices even though it used racial classifications that clearly skewed admissions decisions. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s opinion acknowledges that the court should scrutinize racial classifications used by public universities because their use was suspect, but the law school’s classifications were nonetheless justified. Why? Because they supported certain “compelling state interests”. These compelling interests resulted from its admissions policy, which ensured a “racially diverse student body.” This diverse student body has in turn yielded commendable educational benefits, such as increasing “intercultural understanding,” “breaking down racial stereotypes,” and better preparing law students “to participate in a diverse workforce.”

But have these advantages reached the level of “convincing”? O’Connor’s opinion left that assessment entirely to the university’s educational expertise. O’Connor wrote, “The Law School’s educational judgment that such diversity is essential to its educational mission is one we abide by” (emphasis mine).

Commentators Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr. summarize the adverse effects Grandmothers and Grutter: “[T]Court masses were half-measures that effectively encouraged schools to conceal the operation of their preference policies. Both opinions have emboldened many schools to maintain and even increase their racial preferences.” This result has become so pronounced and obvious that it has led to two cases involving Students for Fair Admissions that are before the court this term.

In both cases—the Harvard case and the UNC case—lengthy trials uncovered substantial factual evidence showing that race played a significant and recurring role during the admissions process. This is precisely what the student plaintiffs find unjust and unconstitutional. Here are some examples from the Harvard case:

Preferential treatment began with early recruitment. Harvard recruited African American and Hispanic high school students with PSAT (Preliminary SAT) scores of 1100 or higher. However, it did not recruit white or Asian-American students unless they scored at least 1,350 on the same test.

The preferential treatment continued when the new entry class was built. When the freshman class was formed each year, Harvard carefully and regularly tracked the projected racial composition of the class using “one-sided.” These documents tracked the racial composition of the new class on a daily basis and compared last year’s class in terms of race to the new class that was being formed.

The dean of admissions also periodically briefed admissions officers on the racial profile of the new class. It was clear that this “information” was intended to maintain the racial makeup of the class racially similar to the previous year’s class.

As the new class took shape, Harvard engaged in “decision-making” of some of the tentatively admitted candidates to bring its class into racial balance.

Testimony from plaintiffs’ experts reviewed the test scores and GPAs of similarly qualified Harvard applicants, stratified by race. An Asian American in the 4th lowest decile (bottom 40%) had almost no chance of admission (0.9%) based on their academic qualifications. However, an African American whose scores placed him in the same academic decile had a significantly higher chance of admission (12.8%) and, surprisingly, this African American student had a slightly higher chance of admission than an Asian American applicant whose his academic report placed him in the top decile, i.e. the top 10% of applicants.

Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research agreed that the admissions process put Asian applicants at a disadvantage and that “being Asian” was a negative for admission to Harvard. Note: Although Asian Americans were a minority group, they were not a favored minority group.

Grutter also required colleges and universities that used race to determine whether there were alternative admissions practices that would be race-neutral and still provide a diverse student body. Both UNC and Harvard have been presented with proposals for a race-neutral restructuring of their admissions practices during the legal process. These proposals called for the elimination of racial preferences, as well as preferences for children of donors, alumni, and faculty/staff. Additionally, by reducing preferences for working athletes and increasing scholarships for applicants in lower socioeconomic groups (defined in a race-neutral manner), the likelihood of true student diversity has been maintained. In other words, the entering class under the race-neutral alternative plans showed diversity (diversity) of backgrounds, geographic differences, experiences and attitudes, and yes, racial differences. All of this could have been achieved without using race in the way it was used. Harvard and UNC rejected these alternatives as unworkable.

The plaintiffs also argued in their briefs that California universities there, where race-based admissions was prohibited by law, were nevertheless able to restructure their admissions in a race-neutral manner and still achieve the diversity of student enrollment they desired. universities. . Other countries have followed similar bans, while maintaining true diversity.

The late Justice Scalia was astute in his dissent in Grutter. He complained that instead of “a clear constitutional position that racial preferences are impermissible in state educational institutions,” the court declared a “Grutter-Gratz split double title” that was “perversely designed to prolong litigation and litigation.” That’s exactly what happened.

And now the court has an opportunity to reject it Grutter and remove race from admissions decisions at state or private institutions that receive federal money. Justice Thomas emphatically explains why racial preferences in admissions should not continue: “Every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.”

John A. Sparks is the retired dean of the Alva J. Calderwood School of Arts & Letters at Grove City College, where he teaches American constitutional history and business law, and was the former chairman of the business department. As a Center for Vision and Values ​​Education Policy Fellow, he was named an HB Earhart Foundation Fellow, an RC Hoiles Fellow, a Chavanne Fellow (Baylor University Hankamer School of Business) and received the prestigious George Washington Medal of Honor. from Freedoms Foundation, Valley Forge, PA.

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