What you need to know about affirmative action ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on racial considerations in college admissions this month.

Judges are reviewing two lawsuits filed by white conservative legal activist Ed Blum and his group Students for Fair Admissions. They challenged the constitutionality of the affirmative action policies of Harvard University and UNC Chapel Hill, Claims to have harmed white and Asian American students.

The decision could severely limit the university’s efforts to make its campuses more diverse and racially representative.

There is a lot of confusion about how affirmative action works on college campuses. Here are 6 things to know while you wait for a decision.

Affirmative action was originally conceived as a form of reparation, not as a way to diversify white-majority universities.

According to sociologists Lisa Stulberg and Tony Cheng, northern college leaders were prompted by the civil rights movement to end centuries of racial discrimination that led to the exclusion of communities of color from higher education. It is said that they began to make up for the oppression.

“There were no discriminatory laws in states like Washington and Michigan. Despite this, there were very few black students on campus.” Cheng told WBEZ.. “So officials at these institutions decided to start exploring new ways of thinking about academic merit to bring African-American students to campus.”

The first affirmative action policies in universities took root in the 1960s. It often involved sending admissions officers to urban high schools serving black and brown students. In the late decade, amid mounting pressure from civil rights activists, some institutions began offering programs that reserved many slots for marginalized students.

Racial quotas are no longer allowed

The use of quotas was found to be unconstitutional in 1978. His twice-rejected white applicant from the University of California, Davis Medical School challenged the school’s affirmative action policy.

The university has reserved 16 of its 100 seats for disadvantaged minorities, with the aim of redressing the effects of past discriminatory practices. Attorneys for applicant Alan Bakke argued that this violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1978, where judges ruled that promoting educational opportunities for minority students amounted to discrimination against their white peers.

From that point on, universities were limited to using race as one of many factors in admissions decisions, and were no longer able to offer marginalized students advantages as a way of compensating for systemic racism. rice field. The race-conscious admissions, as these policies became known, could only be used to increase campus diversity for educational benefit.

“What’s at stake in the Harvard-UNC lawsuit?” [before the Supreme Court] It’s a more modest program called Holistic Review, where all students are part of a common pool,” Cheng said. “Their applications are considered on an individual basis … and race is considered one of the various factors that can add value to their application.”

Races are now sometimes used as tiebreakers

Selected colleges usually have several highly qualified applicants competing for each slot. After evaluating transcripts and extracurricular activities, application readers look at other characteristics that help make decisions among students, such as race, alumni relationships, and socioeconomic status.

“They get a huge amount of applications,” said James Murphy, director of higher education policy at Education Reform Now. “And sure, a lot of them can all be wiped out. ‘You’re not making a fuss.’ can be filled. So once you move beyond your academic background, you have to start looking elsewhere. ”

The characteristics considered relate to the institution’s mission and priorities, such as socioeconomic diversity and building support among alumni, Murphy said.

States banning affirmative action are hurting students of color

Since California voters banned the consideration of race in entrance exams in 1998, the percentage of underrepresented minorities in the state earning bachelor’s and graduate degrees has declined, one says. the report announced. Analysis by Zachary Breemer, Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale University. By the mid-2010s, the ban had reduced the number of Californians of color earning $100,000 or more in their early careers by 3%, according to his study.

Opponents of affirmative action often argue that universities can make campuses more representative of the country’s racial makeup without considering race.but Research by the Center for Education and Workforce at Georgetown University They do not significantly increase the proportion of underrepresented minorities in selected universities, even if they replace possible surrogates for race, such as socioeconomic status and first-generation status. I discovered that it is not.

The only way to compensate for the ban on affirmative action, the researchers say, is by “significantly expanding the pool of candidates considered for admission, including eliminating preferential admissions for privileged groups.” found that changing college admissions in . This includes legacy admissions and alumni family preferences.both locally The University of Chicago and Northwestern University continue this practice Despite criticism.

Affirmative action rulings may have implications beyond college admissions

Scholarships and support programs for students of color may also be impacted because they take race into account. And some experts say the decision could have implications beyond higher education, such as employment policies aimed at diversifying the workforce.

The types of colleges that may be affected by this ruling represent only a small fraction of American higher education.

“[Affirmative action] It mostly affects colleges and universities that are very selective,” said Murphy of Education Reform Now. “And they’re small, aren’t they? Pell student enrollments down across the Ivy League [from low-income households] More than Rutgers University every year. ”

But it is important to diversify these institutions and make them more equitable, he said. Because these institutions have graduated many of society’s most powerful and influential leaders.

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https://chicago.suntimes.com/education/2023/6/12/23758184/college-admissions-affirmative-action-supreme-court-ed-blum-harvard-unc-chapel-hill What you need to know about affirmative action ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling

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