Supreme Court decision could change college admission process, diversity rates
Judges debate affirmative action, UConn supports ‘holistic review’ of applicants
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 00:10
A case currently on the U.S. Supreme Court docket could result in changes in many colleges’ admissions processes.
Abigail Noel Fisher filed suit against UT claiming she was denied admission to UT in large part because she is not a minority race. Her case, Fisher v. University of Texas, claims UT’s policy that considers race in university admissions is unconstitutional because it places those of minority races at an advantage over white applicants.
Should the Court rule in favor of Fisher, it would largely overturn the 2003 5 to 4 decision of Grutter v. Bollinger. In this case, the Court deemed diversity a compelling interest for colleges, thus allowing colleges to consider race in their admissions, so long as quotas are not used, according to a New York Times article entitled “Schools Brace for Decision on Affirmative Action.”
“Depending on how the ruling goes, there is going to be a decision whether or not diversity is a legitimate interest [for public universities],” said UConn sociology professor Mary Bernstein.
UT’s current policy guarantees admission to all Texas high school students who fall in the top 10 percent of their class. Students who are not in the top 10 percent of their class are admitted based on a variety of factors, including race. The policy stems from a historical effort to make the minority student body population of the UT more reflective of Texas’ general minority population.
The 10 percent policy was put in place after UT’s affirmative action program was deemed unconstitutional in the 1997 case Hopwood v. State of Texas. Since the Texas school system remains highly segregated, the 10 percent policy has resulted in an increase in the percentage of minority students admitted to UT. Therefore, a policy considering race, in addition to this 10 percent policy, may not even be needed.
The question being submitted to the Supreme Court is whether an admissions policy considering race is constitutional.
According to a statement released by UConn, the Connecticut university does not have a formal policy regarding race and ethnicity for its undergraduate admissions process.
“…The university employs recruiting strategies and undertakes a holistic review of each applicant in order to admit classes that meet the university’s goals, one of which is ensuring a diverse student body, in recognition of the increasingly diverse society we live in,” said an official UConn statement regarding an amicus brief supporting UT the university participated in.
The statement also said “We acknowledge the value of diversity in background and creed in its contribution to a creative and challenging educational environment for students. Our setting must be one that can consider, in a critical manner, the intellectual contributions from the broadest range of perspectives possible. Presence of diversity is essential to the intellectual enterprise of the university.”
If the Court does rule in favor of Fisher, Bernstein, suspects it will affect all colleges.
“It’s going to have a chilling effect,” she said.