Wednesday, June 22, 2016

WaPost: How Harvard set the model for affirmative action in college admissions


I support affirmative action. The Washington Post's Nick Anderson recently wrote an article about how affirmative action in college admissions as we know it has its origins from the Harvard plan, which Bakke upheld as constitutional. With a ruling on Fisher due soon, I hope the U.S. Supreme Court justices take this time to reflect on how their decision on this important issue will affect generations of students. I have witnessed the impact of Proposal 2's ban on affirmative action in Michigan. Since it's passage, there has been dwindling black enrollment and increased incidents of racial and gender bias. Race continues to be a determining factor in wealth accumulation, access to educational opportunities, and career prospects. Race ultimately affects who gets ahead in American society.

Harvard officials reply that their approach is legally sound and has been ratified in repeated court rulings, including the Bakke case and the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action procedures at the University of Michigan law school. Race, the court has said, may be considered as one of many factors in a “holistic” review of an individual application. “Holistic,” as college-bound students know, is the way many selective colleges describe their admission process.

Harvard and many other prestigious schools have pushed the court in the Fisher case to leave that process in place. The court essentially acceded to their wishes in the first Fisher decision in 2013, sending the case back to Texas courts for further review. Now the case is back for a second ruling. Higher education leaders have urged the justices not to meddle with a system they say is essential to building a campus community with a robust variety of points of view. It would be folly, they say, to allow colleges to consider every element of an applicant’s background except race or ethnicity at a time when the nation is immersed in debates that touch on numerous racial questions.

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