A landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court could determine whether colleges and universities can consider an applicant’s race for admission. The decision, expected next spring, will help decide whether this multicultural nation moves forward or backward on matters of race.
A 22-year-old woman named Abigail Fisher believes the University of Texas denied her application for admission in 2008 because she is white. Her attorneys claim she had a better academic record than some chosen minority students. Ms. Fisher ended up obtaining a degree from Louisiana State University.
A diverse campus improves the overall education of everyone. Colleges and universities need to maintain some flexibility in getting there.
Applicants always have been judged by numerous considerations besides grades and test scores, including athletic prowess, artistic skills, volunteer activity, relations to alumni, essay-writing, civic duty, and leadership.
Moreover, any just and reasonable admissions process must account for differences. Some applicants had to work to support their families. Others didn’t. Some grew up in homes where they used computers and took trips. Others may have been homeless.
In the Grutter vs. University of Michigan decision of 2003, the Supreme Court outlawed racial quotas as a tool for admission but allowed race to remain one of many legitimate considerations. Justices who wrote the 2003 majority opinion, narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote, said they thought the current system would last 25 years. Now, with a more conservative court, the ability of universities to consider race is in jeopardy, along with Affirmative Action.
In a nation still scarred by racial injustice, that would amount to a giant step backward.