Heated Arguments Fly At Supreme Court Over Race In College Admissions

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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Antonin Scalia, the U.S. A divided Supreme Court confronted whether policies at the University of Texas at Austin meet the standards for the use of racial preferences in school admissions.American conservatives have been engaged in a long war against the constitutionality of affirmative action at public universities and other institutions.

Counting just eligible voters when drawing electoral maps would disenfranchise most of the nation’s Latino population, several Latino leaders are warning. Latino lawmakers and community leaders say that a Supreme Court case which raises the question of whether state electoral districts should be drawn according to total population, or based on just residents who are eligible to vote, threatens to imperil Latinos who are too young to vote or not naturalized citizens. During arguments Wednesday, several justices asked about the value of ordering more hearings in a case from Texas that was before them for the second time.

The university admits 75 percent of students through a plan that guarantees slots to Texans who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, regardless of race. Three-quarters of UT’s incoming class is automatically admitted through a state law granting admission to the top-ranked high school graduates in Texas.

The rest are admitted in a process where race is one of many factors considered. “Let me ask you about the 10 percent plan itself, because it seems to me that that is so obviously driven by one thing only, and that thing is race. UT has broad backing, but higher education leaders and civil rights groups are concerned that Abigail Fisher, a white woman from Sugar Land who says she was discriminated against when UT rejected her in 2008, could strike a serious blow to affirmative action. The case is on its second trip to the high court, following a 2013 ruling that reaffirmed its 2003 position approving affirmative action in university admissions. Meanwhile, students who have benefited (or are perceived to have benefited from) such programs have reason to be outraged, after US supreme court justice Antonin Scalia essentially argued that they might not be equipped to profit from admittance to certain high-quality institutions. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, in an interview with Fox News Latino. “There are already a lot of people who are cynical about government and believe that power is concentrated among a few people.

The core of UT’s argument is that it needs to consider race to ensure diversity among its student body — a goal supported by the U.S. government, the country’s biggest businesses, former military leaders and many more, who filed dozens of briefs in UT’s favor. But it was not clear from the arguments whether Kennedy would go as far as the other conservatives appeared willing to deal a blow to race as a factor in college admissions. As the 5th circuit court of appeals observed in its opinion upholding the UT affirmative action program, Fisher almost certainly would not have been admitted even if UT used strictly race-neutral admissions criteria.

Potentially complicating the outcome, Justice Elena Kagan is sitting out the case because she worked on it at an earlier stage at the Justice Department, before joining the court. Bollinger, the court said that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. Chief Justice John Roberts touched on the issue in a 2013 argument, asking whether the court had to assume that affirmative action programs “definitely are beneficial to particular minority groups.” Scalia has a history of making direct comments, both from the bench and in his written opinions. Alito’s questions implied that taking diversity into account when choosing the remaining pool of students did not provide any added value to the university. In a letter to supporters, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote: “Voting rights experts say that by not counting everyone – including children, unnaturalized immigrants and others who can’t vote – our political system inevitably will become even more skewed toward the political right, because urban areas will lose representation.” When some districts of roughly equal population have dramatically different numbers of eligible voters, shouldn’t Texas “at least give some consideration to this disparity that you have among voters?” Kennedy asked.

With its blindness to all but the single dimension of class rank, the Top Ten Percent Plan came with significant costs to diversity and academic integrity, passing over large numbers of highly qualified minority and non-minority applicants. The Dallas Morning News quoted one of the plaintiffs who filed the suit, Sue Evenwel, as saying: “There are great many people in Texas who are not eligible to vote.” “This isn’t about them as individuals.

Several states, including California and Michigan, forbid the practice, and public universities in those states have had a drop in minority admissions. In other states and at private institutions, officials generally look to race and ethnicity as one factor among many, leading to the admission of significantly more black and Hispanic students than basing the decisions strictly on test scores and grades would. I don’t want to get into that debate, but I do have a worry, which is: If you’re reading proof of a compelling need, or proof of a compelling need, will any holistic review ever survive?

As she said, Alito’s suggestion would make diversity in higher education “totally dependent upon having racially segregated neighborhoods, racially segregated schools, and it operates as a disincentive for a minority student to step out of that segregated community and attempt to get an integrated education.” I don’t think the solution to the problems with student body diversity can be to set up a system in which not only are minorities going to separate schools, they’re going to inferior schools. Is this going to be done in your view in 12 years?” “Your honor, I’m not here to give you a date, but what I would say is this: There are systematic problems that these problems — that these policies are attempting to address, including the test score gap between African-Americans and Hispanics.

Existing racial inequities inevitably affect students’ grade point averages, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities and the other criteria that selective schools use to choose among applicants. Simply knowing what colleges are looking for itself gives applicants a significant edge, and this knowledge is not equally shared across the socioeconomic spectrum. In the high school class, it’s a really pernicious stereotype.” “It does seem to me, as Justice Alito’s question, and frankly some of the other questions have indicated, that the litigants, and frankly this Court, have been denied the advantage and the perspective that would be gained if there would be additional fact-finding under the instructions that Fisher sought to give. Scalia and Alito were inevitable votes to vote against UT anyway; the vote in doubt is Kennedy, and his arguments didn’t give observers many clues about how he would vote.

There also are competing arguments over whether racial preference programs actually limit the number of students from Asian backgrounds, who are disproportionately represented in student bodies relative to their share of the population.

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