Court should alter admission process
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 15:10
Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas case, which is a decision that could drastically alter the role of race in college admissions. Abigail Fisher, who applied to the University of Texas four years ago, claims she wasn’t accepted due to the university’s affirmative action policy, which favored other students of similar ability and promise based on race.
Seven states, including Florida, have banned affirmative action as a factor in college admissions and have experienced mixed results. Since the ban’s inception in Florida in 1999, University of Florida’s black and Hispanic enrollment has bounced back and even surpassed what it was prior to the ban.
In 2003, Grutter v. Bollinger approved college admission processes operating under affirmative action. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor explained in the majority opinion of the case that affirmative action promotes diversity, making “classroom discussion livelier, more spirited and simply more enlightening and interesting when the students have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.”
The problem with this assessment is that simply filling racial quotas does not necessarily promote diversity or usher in a more tolerant and gentrified class of graduates. That sort of thinking is naive. How many international students attend UCF? It isn’t an especially diverse college campus, and, like UF, banning affirmative action did not have a hand in it. More than 690,000 international students attended college during the 2009-10 school year, and although that number is up 3 percent from the previous year, it is infinitesmal when compared to the 21 million students who attended college in 2010.
If true diversity, lively class discussion and enlightenment are the intended goals, students should experience a breadth of cultural customs and existences, yet still, only 1 percent of American college students participate in a study abroad program despite financial aid and various opportunities to do so.
A proposed alternative to only having race-based affirmative action lies in looking also at the socio-economic background of a student, which theoretically kills two birds with one stone. The Century Foundation, a think tank out of Washington and New York, published A Better Affirmative Action last week, a report advocating income-based integration over exclusively race-based admissions.
Advocates of keeping affirmative action should view other measures, such as legacy preferences for children of alumni, which benefits whites, as equally detrimental to diversification efforts. A combination of both income-based and race-based factors when coupled with performance indicators and a host of other determinants in college admissions is a more viable solution.