We Regret to Inform you that the Affirmative Action Plan is Again on Trial

As the college admissions season continues to linger on, schools may have to rethink their process for admitting students as the affirmative action program has been called into question yet again by the Supreme Court. Affirmative action policies in terms of college admissions are "policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, such as women and minorities" (NCLS).  In 1978 and in 2003 the Court ruled "definitively that colleges and universities could consider race and ethnicity as one of many factors in admissions, as long as there are no quotas"(Totenberg).

UT, a school segregated by law until 1950 when the Supreme Court intervened "in a landmark decision [and] ordered the school to admit its first black student" (Totenberg), uses the 10 percent plan. The plan guarantees any applicant who graduated in the top 10 percent of his or her high school class a place at UT which had restored some diversity at the school but since 2003 when the consideration of race was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, "three-quarters of the UT slots are reserved by law for students who qualify under the top 10 percent plan" and the other quarter makes use of the holistic review system which allows race in the evaluation of an applicant to help increase diversity in the student body (Totenberg). Currently UT is in a debate centering around a past 2008 applicant, Abigail Fisher, who claims to have been a victim of discrimination based on her race (Totenberg). 

The case was brought before the Court in 2013 to determine if the affirmative action program was constitutional. "After eight months [of deliberation, the case was] sent...back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals [where] the justices said that the lower court had deferred too much to the school's claims of good faith in its use of race in admissions"(Totenberg). University of Texas' plan was found to be constitutional as Fisher's academics did not meet the universities standards and would not have been admitted to the school no matter the extent of her extracurricular activities or her race. 

But the case has returned where there are "four justices who avowedly oppose any consideration of race, and one, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is deeply suspicious of affirmative action programs" (Totenberg). The university's brief expresses its want and need for an "affirmative action program for the children of relatively affluent minority families who attend good schools but fall short of the class rank cut off" (Totenberg) because it has used alternative race-neutral programs as Fisher had addressed to admit students but the outcome was a decline in diversity. Kennedy has yet to see a justified affirmative action plan, leaving UT along with other schools anxious for the final ruling (Totenberg). 

Fisher ranked in the top 12% of her class and is said to have been actively involved in her school and community (Pearson). Because Fisher did not rank in the top 10%, she was then placed in the "qualitative 'holistic' review that includes race [among] a number of other personal and academic factors, this Fisher challenged the holistic review program." UT stands by its claim that she wasn't admitted because her "grades and test scores were simply too low to get her in" (Totenberg) compared to the other applicants.

This case affects not only UT but all colleges in the country as they evaluate students. A diverse student body is a vital and beneficial feature to a school as I have been exposed to such during my time at Malden High School, among the top ten most diverse schools in Massachusetts (boston.com). When I applied to college it didn't cross my mind that schools would consider my race in evaluating my application. I also wouldn't have jumped to the conclusion that I was either admitted or rejected from a school based on my race, but maybe growing up in Malden had a role in my way of thinking.

Currently Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington have "banned the use of race in admissions policy all together according to the National Conference of State Legislatures" (de Vogue). Come next year all states may ban race from being considered in the college admissions process depending on the outcome of the court case. 

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