Issue Of The Week LIII: Should The U.S. Supreme Court Strike Affirmative Action Measures For Minorities To Have Equal Access to College And University Admissions?

April 8, 2013
Written by Rita Rizzo in
National Collegiate Dialogue
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Demonstrators protest the Fisher v University of Texas Supreme Court case because they fear it could end Affirmative Action and the efforts to bridge race and ethnic diversity in this country. Photo Credit:

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?

National Collegiate Dialogue


I do not agree that

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-16 on

I do not agree that "affirmative action measures are no longer needed due to minorities having fair and equal access to college and university admissions." I think that if this were true, there would not be two cases appearing in front of the Supreme Court, and just a few weeks ago, there was another blog about university and a Muslim student. This seems to indicate that all is not fair and equal in the world of academic admissions.

I wonder if colleges should stop asking what race the applicant is on the admission applications and if it would have any bearing on admission outcomes.

They Should Stop Asking!

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-44 on

Colleges should return to a meritocracy-based system where the only criteria being judged is that of a student's academic performance and ability (or lack thereof). Without high and exacting academic standards in place, colleges'reputations will suffer.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-20 on

There are very relevant reason colleges have entrance requirements. Like you said, thats what should be looked at. Not skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Look at high schools now. F's are few and far between. It seems we are sugar coating the world for our children. Do you think there future employers will be ok with failed work assignments? Nope, its going to be a rude awakening for the coddled children.

I feel like asking about a

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-25 on

I feel like asking about a student's race is now causing colleges more trouble than it is benefiting minority students. The only thing that keeps nagging at me regarding the meritocracy system is that some students of minority are placed at a disadvantage educationally. However, if a minority student is not making the grades in high school, why should they take the place of any other student in college? It really would be tragic if a school stopped asking about race or ethnicity, and the results were that white student population soared, but I don't believe that would happen. I think there is less and less pressure placed on high school GPA because as someone else said, Fs are becoming more rare in classrooms. (This is another issue entirely, because it isn't as though the population has been having intelligence increases; I think it reflects both a lenience in the school systems and a country-wide emphasis placed on continuing education due to the economy. More people are returning to school to make themselves more attractive to hiring companies, so when admissions began getting more competitive the GPAs started rising on the whole.)

I agree that without sticking to high academic standards, college reputations will and should suffer. The whole point of college is to continue the education you received in high school, and if student A did not out-perform student B, there is absolutely no reason that they should get in and student B should not, racial identity included. Perhaps there should be more reforms at the high school and even elementary levels with regard to minority students, because it is in the foundations of education that one prepares themselves for college.

The Bottom Line Should Be Meritocracy

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-44 on

Higher educational institutions need to reconfigure their requirements and priorities. Instead of focusing a significant amount of attention on 'diversity profiling' at this point in time, they should generate a meritocracy-based criteria where the academic performance and ability of the student takes precedence over any other requirement. The end result could only lead to a higher standard of academic ranking/reputation which benefits both the institution and those who attend it.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-20 on

I don't think Affirmative Action is relavent anymore. Everyone, who wants, earns it or can afford it, has access to college education. There are student loans, grants, etc. I agree with WEST 16. Sometimes it seems like AFFIRM ACT is reverse racism, sexism. I don't see Affirmative Action changing anything anymore.

I agree with you!

Submitted by PARKF2014-09 on

I agree with you!

College Admissions

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-12 on

I am not sure the right answer, but I do not think meritocracy-based systems are an answer that speaks to ALL children and upcoming possible college students in our country. First, we must ask ourselves questions regarding diversity and access to primary and secondary education.

The American Dream is not as easily accessible as we would like to believe. Those raised in poverty will most likely remain there in their lifetime. Yes, when students have fair access to proper and helpful K-12 education, a system of meritocracy might work, but when this is often not the case, I believe students deserve a chance at higher education whether or not their grades prove worthy. Life situations, challenges, and simply our system add to unequal rights in education.

While most privileged students have access to college education, I believe we need Affirmative Action and other organizations who speak for those without privilege.

Affirmative Action

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-15 on

As far as Affirmative Action goes, I feel I’m kind of torn. I would definitely have to say that minorities do not have fair and equal access to college and university admissions, but I do feel that things have changed from the past. I wouldn’t say that Affirmative Action should go away or that it ever will, but I think that there should be other components to allowing someone in school besides just their race. I do feel there are other components though in our current system. If a Black girl tries to go to school with a 1.5 GPA they should not be allowed in and if a White girl with the same GPA attempts to get in a university she shouldn’t get in. I just don’t feel that Affirmative Action will ever go away. Universities and colleges are always going to have to meet diversity quotas so minorities will always get in over some Whites. That’s just how it is I feel.

Affirmative Action

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-41 on

I just read your post after posting my own and I agree that admission should not be granted merely on race. Let be real if you have a 1.5 GPA as you used in your example the liklihood of success in college is probably very slim for either whites or minorities. I just feel as though the people who put forth the most effort as shown in their academic performance are the ones deserving of admittance.

I will argue FOR Affirmative

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-33 on

I will argue FOR Affirmative Action. A while ago I did a comparison between Sonia Sotomayor and Abigale Fisher for my WEST class…here it is.

The more I see and hear Sonia Sotomayor-I love her more. I see and hear intelligence, humility, groundedness, compassion, wisdom, balance and some real applicable life experience (I could go on)... and she is a recipient of Affirmative Action. Oh what we could learn from such a person–especially those who are entrenched in the war upon Affirmative Action. Sotomayor and Fisher are two women fighting for the same thing–equality not based on skin color. Sotomayor benefited from Affirmative Action but Fisher did not.

I see humility, wisdom and vision from Sotomayor that comes from life experience–a life experience of sacrifice, overcoming obstacles and navigating great challenges. This woman had almost every disadvantage one could think of-race, gender, socioeconomic status and a disability. This woman has realized that the opportunity she has been afforded was not a right-but a privilege and life changing. How’s that for NOT having an entitled attitude? She admits that doors were open for her, but she then went above and beyond what was expected and graduated summa cum laude, winning Princeton's coveted Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize and now sits on the Supreme Court.

I see shock, disbelief and petulance from Fisher that comes from limited life experience–a life of expectations that when these expectations were not realized decided to sue–based on discrimination of the color of her skin. How’s that for HAVING an entitled attitude? She was not part of the top 10%–otherwise there would be no issue. She had to compete on other merits-just like any other individual applying to UT falling outside the top 10% and thus other factors were considered. Leadership, volunteering, income level and yes-race…what a difference life becomes when just being white does not afford one the luxury of privilege and having things just go one’s way…

Why did this young woman believe she had sole rights to gain access to her preferred school of choice over others–regardless of GPA? Does an interviewer for employment look only at skilled qualifications or are there other factors that come into play? Fisher did have other opportunities and was accepted and graduated from Louisiana State University. There were other doors open for her. For a minority in general-would there have been even one open??? I fully support Affirmative Action–I would much prefer to produce a woman of Sotomayor’s caliber than that of Fisher’s, not taking anything away from Fisher’s accomplishments thus far, for we are products of our environments and not always aware.

Which one of these women truly understands discrimination based on skin color and which simply had socially constructed expectations not met? That is my basic argument for the support of Affirmative Action.

Love it!

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-36 on

I love your comparison of these two women. It is awesome. I had the privilege of listening to some of the dialogue of the recent same sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court recently. Some of my favorite lines of questioning came from Justice Sotomayor. I thought she had the most real an down to earth perspectives and questioning of all of the justices. I did not know much about her, especially all of the obstacles she overcame to be where she is now, but it makes perfect sense to me now. Thank you for your comment.

very interesting

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-9 on

This was a really interesting and enlightening post. I think a lot of affirmative action has to do with people's attitude toward entitlement. This girl clearly did not fall within the top 10% of GPAs to be automatically accepted and then expected her race to win her a spot on campus. I think if affirmative action is used, it should not be for a sense of entitlement, but for a sense of opportunity and for people to take advantage of a door that opens for them.

There is good and bad for privileged people as well. A lot of minorities get a lot of financial aid. Parents who make "enough" money can kiss pell grants for their own kids goodbye and must figure a way to pay for school out of pocket, or have them join the military (like I did). Financial aid is not equally distributed, it favors minorities and lower socioeconomic classes. I can see the point in this, but it excludes help for other people. It just depends on how the programs affect each person, and they will pick a side depending on that.

In the real world...

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-36 on

In a perfect world, everyone would have equal opportunities that begin with equal education. In a perfect world, the students coming out of those equal schools would have equal financial access to educations they are equally accepted into. In a perfect world, race would not exist. In a perfect world, gender would not matter. In a perfect world, merit would be the only basis for one's acceptance into the best schools and the best jobs.

But in the real world....affirmative action is still necessary!

Affirmative Action

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-41 on

I think that Affirmative Action has played a substantial role in helping minorities achieve both educational and professional goals since its creation in 1961 by John F. Kennedy. I am undecided on whether I think that race should determine admission to any institution of higher learning. Honestly I feel as though the college admissions process should be centered on meritocracy. I don't think that we are doing anyone any favors by admitting them to colleges when their performance does not match or exceed other more qualified individuals who are turned away. I don't necessary think that all minorities have fair and equal access to college and university admissions all across the United States but if anyone is truly intent on attending college they should be aware that the admissions process is extremely competitive and their performance should reflect that competitiveness.

I agree with you that

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-32 on

I agree with you that affirmative action helps minorities achieve success that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to achieve. The problem with basing college admission primarily on meritocracy is that many people living in low socioeconomic areas have to help pay bills that youth living in higher financial areas do not have to worry about. The youth helping out with their families finances are not able to primarily focus on their studies and their grades suffer because of it. They become stuck in a lifestyle that does not allow them to grow or move up. I think affirmative action is their ticket to a life they may never have had the opportunity to have.

The Problem

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-17 on

As much as we would like to believe the society has changed over the years, and that discrimination against someone's race regarding acceptance into a university or a college no longer exists, there is always that possibility that someone may suffer from such discrimination. To an extent I strongly believe that one should only be granted admission into a school they desire only if they are qualified for it. It is not fair for someone with the exact same qualifications as someone else to be denied because they are white and the other person is a minority. Admission into a university should only be based on someone's capability to finish school by looking at their achievements and accomplishments from high school.
However, if we were to take the role of affirmative action in school admissions out completely, no one can be sure that the school accept students solely based on their academic achievements. The university websites usually have their average standards for who are strong candidates and who are not, but that does not guarantee anyone's acceptance. The decision is based the university , and even if one is a border line qualifier, just because of their race, chance still exists for them to be denied. So affirmative action does give advantages to those minorities who are not strongly favored candidates, but that also means someone who may have a tiny bit better may be rejected because they had to make room for the other student.
I think the only way one can strengthen their argument on why affirmative action should be removed is if all universities and colleges can present exact requirements for admissions. This is probably next to impossible because there may be other positive and desirable qualities in students that the university may want, even if they lack in other parts of the admission criteria. On the other hand, the universities and colleges may take out the portion on their application where they ask the student's race, but that is still imperfect because one may have an exotic name that is not common and the admission staff can kind of guess what their race may be.


Submitted by UCCS-S2013-9 on

This is such a difficult issue because affirmative can be both a blessing and biased. I do not think colleges should grant admission based on race, ever, no matter who is being favored. On the other side of things, there are a lot of minorities who do not have the opportunities to go to good schools in good neighborhoods that would promote a better and stronger application to Universities of their choice.

Either way, when someone is getting favored because of their race, I think it is racist and unfair to the losing person. But right now due the disparities we do see in privilege based on race, I think affirmative action is still necessary to grant those without the same opportunities the accessibility the rest of us get for free.

I agree that the same

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-8 on

I agree that the same opportunities are not available to everyone. I think affirmative action is necessary until we can guarantee that everyone is starting from a level playing field, and since that is not the case the we have to level the playing field. I see your point in categorizing this as racism, however, the same racism has been going on for decades of denying admission because of skin color, and therefore, I believe this is a means to control racial prejudice.

I feel very strongly about

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-32 on

I feel very strongly about affirmative action. I believe it would be detrimental to eliminate this action. I believe there are many things the Supreme Court needs to change, but this is not one of them. The way most people are able to gain success and financial stability is through a college education. People who live in low socioeconomic areas, mostly minorities, are not given the opportunity at a higher level of education, if it were not for affirmative action. It is ridiculous to eliminate something that gives people a chance at success, a chance they would not otherwise have. I did not qualify for college grants because of my parent's incomee, but my parents did not pay for my education, so I was not able to afford college. It was not until I joined the military that I was given the chance to go to college because the military helped pay for my student loans. Not everyone has the opportunities I was given and I am absolutely for affirmative action.


Submitted by UCCS-S2013-5 on

I do not feel that admission should ever be determined by a person's race, but some people will never have the opportunity to go to college. I think that college admission should be based on essays, grades, gpa, class rank, extra curricular activities; Not be based on being Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc. I think giving out minority scholarships is a great thing because it does give a student a chance to afford school if that was a big issue. I feel that giving acceptance letters to a minority person BECAUSE they are a minority just gives into negative racism which we do not want in our country.

As a student I believe that

Submitted by NIAGARA-S2013-33 on

As a student I believe that no matter what race, sex, age, etc should affect college placement. With the current economic situation the need for a college degree is steadily increasing. The competition for college acceptance to get that degree is continuing to increase. The basis of grades and community service, police record etc should have the effect on acceptance. It doesn't matter if you are black, white, asian, catholic, baptist, gay, straight, lesbian, if you don't have the intelligence to be in college then you should not be given the opportunity simply because you meet the college need to make percentage minority rates equal.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-6 on

I'm glad that you mentioned these percentage requirements that are imposed to create "diversity" at colleges/universities. I agree that merit should hold more weight, but if it's a situation in which the selection is between two equally qualified individuals, one white and one a minority, I can understand choosing the minority because the white student is more inclined to gain acceptance from a multitude of institutions.

My opinions hold know more weight than what they are, opinions. That being said, my opinions could change should I be learn more regarding this subject matter.

So, in a sense, I agree with you. It's only in situations where two potential students have equal qualifications that the decision could be difficult.

not ready

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-25 on

Ieally, it would be great to say that minorities have equal access to college, jobs and other areas of society dominated by white people. but the facts are that minorities on average are less likely to attend college and earn equal pay to their white counterparts. Many minorities begin in less well funded schools, recieve less encouragement to reach higher and still often expected to achieve less. While other groups were segregated, enslaved pushed to internment camps and forced to live with one eye constantly open, white people have been gaining their wealth, had generations of college graduates and in short a better life. While, it is ideal to say that such histories no longer effect these people, i feel that in reality we still have a long way to go before our differences are no longer have any relevance in how much we can achieve.

Are People "just" People?

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-6 on

I think the inclusion of race regarding college/university enrollment is necessary. Other areas of an individual's life are examined to determine whom will or won't be accepted, so why shouldn't an individual's primary status be included? Race is more influential on an individual's life than I would imagine most white people realize. This is because white people don't have to "consider" their race on a daily basis similar to the lives of minorities.

I think the problem lies with those whom are concerned about Caucasians receiving greater opportunities than minorities should there be racist individuals present in the selection process. In addition, some are worried that minorities will be given priority over equally qualified Caucasians in order to create a more diverse campus community.

With those problems in mind, I think the inclusion of race is necessary in order to create for a more informed decision during the selection process. I welcome the idea that a college may choose someone for a combination of intellectual ability, experience, and one's primary statuses. Perhaps I'm biased because I'm white and have never felt the "sting" of knowing that my race kept me from participating in something I desired.

Not Yet

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-5 on

I don't think that we're ready to take away affirmative action. I wish that all races were held on equal status, but I really don't believe that we can yet. Just the other day I saw an article that talked about Blacks and Hispanics being targeted more for weed than whites. Just because we have a half black half white President doesn't mean that racism is over, it's very much alive. Also, I think that growing up as a different race has different impacts on people than growing up white does, you go through more experiences if you grow up black, hispanic, or asian than you do growing up in the privileged white class.However, I don't think that someone with F's should be accepted just because a college needs to meet is "different race" score either. I think that if we did away with affirmative action, people who weren't white could not be accepted into jobs or colleges because of it.

Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2013-31 on

I feel that there is still a need for Affirmative Action, but with that being said I also feel that there should be standards for admission to institutions of higher education. If a person cannot meet minimum standards then they should be turned away regardless of race. It would be nice to think that all races have equal access to institutions of higher education, but the reality is that they do not and it may be a long time before they do if it ever happens.

Minorities should have equal

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-28 on

Minorities should have equal access to college and university admissions. So far, I have only heard about “white privilege”. People have been trying to get rid of “white privilege” because it causes racial inequality. However, giving minorities privilege is not equal to suppressing white privilege. It might cause another racial discrimination problem. Moreover, accepting that the minorities need to have better access to get into college for whatever reason is the same thing as assuming that the minorities are inferior students compared to the white students.

What would be the alternative?

Submitted by NIAGARA-S2013-31 on

Challenging issues with no definitive right answer. School acceptance should be granted based on grades and ability as opposed to race without a doubt. Grades are an issue for the simple reason that once an individual is accepted they must be committed and able to do the work. That being said, if someone is at a disadvantage based on race or any other form of "ism" than the cycle of oppression continues. Is there middle ground? Racism is a reality and there will be no end anytime soon, history as well as present time shows this. There may be benefit put on universal admissions for all students across the board. Has there been enough focus on ensuring that the process in place reduces or eliminates risk of persons being chosen based primarily on race (minority or majority)? Affirmative action is necessary based on our reality and current climate but more work needs to be done to ensure that the pendulum is not swung in the opposite direction.

Affirmative Action

Submitted by UCCS-S2013-11 on

In my opinion if affirmative action was not needed than there wouldn't be such a big argument about it. There was another article on here that spoke about hate crimes at Purdue so obviously we are still having racial conflicts at colleges, and in the Purdue case claims of hate crimes were being ignored. I believe that without affirmative action or some other form of accountability, minority students will fall through the cracks, and will not be accepted into college in the same numbers. It is sad that this even has to be a discussion. On the flip side, it is also very discouraging for a lot of minority students when it is assumed that they received their acceptance based on their race alone. A lot of times the assumption is that a minority was accepted into college because of their race and not because of their ability and that they have earned the right to be there. That is also a problem that needs to be discussed.