Colleges are restructuring their admissions processes to exclude considerations of race after the Supreme Court’s June ruling on Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina found colleges may no longer allowed use race as a factor determining which students get admitted — effectually ending affirmative action in schools.
Despite this, the end of affirmative action won’t stop race from being considered in some school applications. Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion stipulated colleges could ask how race has affected their lives “so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.” Some colleges are actively revising their admission questions to reflect this wording, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, while others, like Colorado College, are looking for ways to expand their recruitment so they have a better chance of creating more racially diverse enrollment.
Affirmative action — defined by The New York Times as, “an effort by universities to diversify their classes by factoring race into their admission decisions,” — began in the 1960s as a way to enforce new racial discrimination laws; Lawmakers reasoned a good indicator of racial discrimination was if an institution only employed or taught white people. Over time, schools used affirmative action to increase the proportion of racial minorities. This shift has led to criticisms that affirmative action elevates the importance of a prospective student’s race over considerations like merit.
As parents send their children off to college, it’s important for them to understand that affirmative action is but a manifestation of a deeper social value system. Proponents of the policy, including dissenting Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, believe it provides opportunities for people who have been generationally disadvantaged and ensures adequate representation of all races in schools and businesses.
The dissenting justices are far from alone — a Pew research report released in June found an estimated 33% of U.S. adults believe considering students’ race makes the admissions process unfair and 36% believe considering race helps ensure equality of opportunity among students.
Advocates for affirmative action implicitly tend to believe the following: that injustice is passed down from generation to generation, that the only explanation for a lack of diversity in an institution is generational racism, and that the government can adequately solve these generational injustices through affirmative action. As long as college officials hold these beliefs, race will likely continue to be a factor in admissions.
Parents concerned about their child’s school admissions should familiarize themselves with what is permissible under the Supreme Court’s decision. The Senate reportedly intends to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling to the greatest extent of its power, including investigating schools suspected of flouting the ruling. If parents believe their child is being discriminated against, they should consider contacting their senator’s office to report it.
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