The news broke on Tuesday morning that affirmative action would be challenged again before the Supreme Court of the United States. In Fisher v. University of Texas, the Justices will hear the argument of a white applicant who believes she was denied admission to her college of choice because of her race.
Elevation of this case gives supporters of affirmative action plenty to worry about, considering the conservative bent of the present-day Supreme Court. The expectation/prediction/fear of many is that the Court will overturn their 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger which upheld the use of affirmative action in college admissions to achieve a racially diverse student body, and instead fall more in line with the 2007 decision of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, which claimed achieving racial diversity in the classroom was not the role of the state. Justice Elena Kagan announced she would recuse herself from this case, further diminishing the counterbalance to the modern Court’s inhumane conservatism.
Putting all legal precedents and possible ramifications aside for a moment, this case is an embarrassment to the American justice system. The plaintiff’s core argument is that she should not have been refused admission to the college she wished to attend. The racially charged claim of “reverse discrimination” is a sad excuse used by certain white people who have become accustomed to getting their way too often and then suddenly don’t. What the plaintiff, Abigail Noel Fisher, fails to understand, and what the legal forces propelling this case to the high court refuse to concede, is that being denied because of your race is a different thing than not being accepted in favor of other qualified students who are minorities. The first is racial discrimination. The second is a side-effect of anti-discriminatory policies. Other students were selected, and no more room was left at Miss Fisher’s preferred school. It should be noted that Miss Fisher was in no way denied a college education. She simply didn’t get to go where she really wanted to go. Same story that faces thousands of college applicants every single semester who don’t blame it on black people.
See, Miss Fisher had a way into the school that would have circumvented any involvement of race. The University of Texas employed an admissions policy to automatically admit students who graduated in the top 10% of their respective class, regardless of race or any other consideration. That policy created a means of admission for the majority of freshmen accepted to the school. Unfortunately for Abigail Fisher, her grades placed her in the upper 12% of her class. Close, but no cigar.The remaining slots were distributed at the discretion of the school’s admissions board who, in the interest of creating a diverse student body, considered factors including race, economic background, community involvement, and academic performance. Miss Fisher was not selected.
Without having reviewed elements of the case argued in lower courts, this writer has difficulty believing that Miss Fisher was denied admission BECAUSE of her race. As stated above, being excluded because of one’s race is an entirely different matter than being passed over in favor of someone else who isn’t white. Unless her admission file at UT is stamped explicitly as DENIED, REASON: WHITE PERSON, any number of factors could have led to her exclusion. Under current law, no one in the United States is guaranteed a college education, no matter what preparatory steps one may have taken on the way to high school graduation. Miss Fisher’s suit seems to presume otherwise and, even worse, accuse minorities of stealing her right to choose her collegiate destiny.
The apparent weakness of the plaintiff’s argument combined with the ideological disposition of the Justices raises serious questions about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case. Rather than a pressing matter of concern for the American people, this looks like an opportunistic stab at affirmative action policies at a time the Court feels it has the votes to kill such policies. The only way for the Court to save face after dignifying this suit with its acknowledgement would be a brutal, shaming defeat of the plaintiff. That appears unlikely to happen. Because of the conservative leaning of the Court and the previous decisions rendered by the sitting Justices, a defeat of the defense seems far more assured.
The education provided by universities today does little to impress. More and more employers report graduates who appear unprepared for employed life. Minds are not tempered or challenged by American universities, but pushed through a systematic exchange of dollars for degrees. Despite the questionable job preparation though, college attendance does provide two important benefits. One is the degree itself, that simple piece of paper that opens the door to elevated incomes. The other is the cultural enrichment created by pooling individuals from different geographic regions, religions, sexual orientations, economic standing, and, yes, races. Eliminating affirmative action programs for college admissions limits minority access to the first of these (perpetuating historically below-average incomes) while also reducing the opportunity for all students to experience the second.
By taking on this case, the Supreme Court is poised to use Miss Fisher’s misguided sense of entitlement as a means of causing further damage to the quality and equality of U.S. education.
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Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.