Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an affirmative action case, after a white woman named Abigail Fisher was denied admissions to the University of Texas and claimed it was because of her race.
There has been much said about how the justices are likely to vote – especially with the possibly of a 4-4 tie, since Justice Kagan has excused herself from the case. Justice Kennedy, who is considered the swing vote in this case, seems to swaying towards striking down affirmative action.
With the likelihood of affirmative action being ruled down so high, the fate of many university admissions policies are up in the air. And this threat has sparked a large response from universities across the United States. Several universities, including the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Yale University, and John Hopkins University, have filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of the University of Texas.
Student newspapers around the country, from Harvard, to the University of Michigan, to my own school, the University of Pennsylvania, have run opinion editorials on the subject. Most of these editorials seem to view affirmative action in a positive light, as a means not just to level the racial playing field, but also to increase racial diversity on campus and thus add to a larger diversity of viewpoints that students are exposed to while on campus.
However, these editorials also reveal that students view race-based affirmative action as only one component to ensuring a wider diversity on college campuses – many want socio-economic status to be weighed in admissions decisions.
Of course, the Supreme Court has also heard plenty of arguments against the policy. These arguments include the idea that minority students admitted under these policies are not adequately prepared for college classes, that the policies heighten racial tensions and that they discriminate against whites in admissions.
“The point of such briefs,” The Washington Post writes, “is not to necessarily provide the winning argument but to inform the justices of the consequences.” Currently, the balance of the amicus curiae briefs is tipped in support of the University of Texas.
Did Stephen Colbert make a valid point in his recent interview with Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon when he asked, “Shouldn’t Sotomayor and Thomas also recuse themselves, because they’re minorities. They’ve got, pardon the expression, skin in the game. … Shouldn’t it just be Roberts deciding this case?” Or did Bazelon, when she replied, “But doesn’t he have the most skin in the game? Because if you get rid of affirmative action, then that benefits more white people.”
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*Disclaimer: Yessenia Gutierrez is a weekly-columnist and on the opinion board for the University of Pennsylvania’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian.