Affirmative action case raises questions for TU



Rambler Staff Editorial

Historically, and especially since the landmark Regents v. Bakke case in 1973, the United States judicial system has allowed racial preferences in university admissions (i.e., “affirmative action”) on the basis that diversity constitutes a pressing national interest. Cases addressing affirmative action have generally been split decisions and have reliably allowed affirmative action, though they have set high standards of scrutiny for the controversial practice.

Yet now, even as Transylvania University sets out to increase diversity in an intentional and targeted way, the Supreme Court has announced that it will hear another affirmative action case, and there’s a real chance it may rule against many forms of direct diversity targeting in college admissions.

Specifically, the case Fisher v. University of Texas, in which a white woman was denied admission to the University of Texas while “less qualified” minority students were admitted over and above UT’s general pro-diversity initiatives, will be heard by the Supreme Court, probably in the fall.

Justice Elena Kagan, who would likely vote in favor of affirmative action, has recused herself. Justice Anthony Kennedy, usually the swing vote on the court, has voted broadly against affirmative action twice in the last decade. This sets up a likely 5-3 decision overturning the University of Texas policy.

But does it matter for other schools? If the Supreme Court overturns UT’s use of “diversity” as an individual qualifier for specific applicants, will Transylvania be affected?

It is hard to say. The Supreme Court could write, as it has done several times recently, a very narrow verdict which will pertain to only certain or specific institutions to form a consensus. If this happens, Transylvania will not be affected.

However, if a broader ruling is written, small colleges like Transylvania will be affected. If “diversity” (and especially race and nationality) cannot be factored into admissions decisions for individual applicants, it will be more difficult for Transylvania to pursue its objective of diversifying the student body.

We lack the resources of many larger schools to offer blanket acceptance to large bodies of students, as well as the manpower in admissions to target those communities as effectively.

In sum, if there is a broad ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas against affirmative action, Transylvania may face difficulties in reaching some of its long-term admissions objectives.

However, race is only one component of diversity. Fisher v. University of Texas will likely have nothing to say about pursuing diversity on the grounds of geography, socioeconomic class, religious or cultural traditions, and many other factors.

In pursuing diversity, Transylvania’s administration should remember that numerous factors contribute to a diverse campus.


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