Affirmative Action practices and policies when it comes to college and university admissions are important cases before the Supreme Court this year. The Court hopes to deliver a decision this spring regarding the affirmative action case brought against the University of Texas, which challenges the University’s affirmative action practices. Just last week the Court heard a Michigan affirmative action case.
Court watchers were surprised that the Justices agreed to hear two cases on affirmative action in college admissions, but apparently, the Court sees significant legal differences between the two cases.
NPR reports on the lively discussion that took place during Fisher vs. University of Texas, heard by the Court last October. In that case, the University denied admission to Ms. Fisher, a Caucasian, based on her grades. The University’s President stated that 75 percent of applicants receive automatic acceptance based on high school class rank. Texas law guarantees that students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class get in, and the other 25 percent, those not in the top 10 percent, are admitted under a system that includes grades, board scores, essays, and other factors like leadership, awards, community activities, economic circumstances, and race.
The issue with the University of Michigan appears to be different. According to the New York Times, Schuette v. Michigan Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action concerns a voter initiative in Michigan that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities. In November 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the initiative, which amended the State Constitution, violated the federal Constitution’s equal protection clause. Approved in 2006 by state voters, the initiative prohibited discrimination or preferential treatment in public education, government contracting, and public employment. Groups favoring affirmative action sued to block the part of the law concerning higher education.
Both sides of the affirmative action debate will be featured in the decisions of these cases. Will the Court’s decisions effectively end race conscious policies in college admissions? Or will it recognize the ongoing necessity for accommodating racial barriers for minority students? We should know the answers to those questions in the coming months.
Are Affirmative Action measures no longer needed because all minorities have fair and equal access to college and university admissions all across the United States?
What do you think?