Affirmative Action Now, Affirmative Action Tomorrow, and Affirmative Action FOREVER

UT

I understand that many who read this blog are much like myself: Black and pursuing post-graduate education. We managed to graduate college, and, realizing that our opportunities would grow if we got more education, applied and got into a graduate program in some field. Without knowing for certain, however, many of us likely benefited from some form of affirmative action program designed to increase diversity in our respective field. Well, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 10th will hear oral argument in a case that could fundamentally change the way affirmative action policies are administered in the United States.

The seminal case in the area of affirmative action with regard to higher education is Grutter v. Bollinger. This case established the framework for constitutional affirmative action policies used by public schools when admitting students. In short, Barbara Grutter sought admission to the University of Michigan Law School, and was denied. The law school made a limited use of race in their admissions practices, however, Ms. Grutter sued pursuant to the 14th Amendment saying that this was an impermissible use of race by the government of Michigan, the university being an organ of the state. The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court went into great detail analyzing Michigan’s policy, and determined it passed constitutional muster.

Your standard wounded white woman, Barbara Grutter.

The High Court ended up holding that race can be considered in higher education admissions policies, but that it can only be considered as one of many factors. Race can’t be the difference-maker. Overt racial quotas are unconstitutional. Separating minority applications and only comparing them to each other is impermissible. These kinds of policies are subject to what’s called “strict scrutiny.” This means that the entity taking race into account must be pursuing a compelling state interest, and must use methods narrowly tailored to achieve the goal.

Got it? Good.

Enter Abigail Fisher, a white female, Texas resident, and high-school student (in 2008). She applied to the University of Texas, Austin. UT-Austin denied her admission, and she sued on grounds that UT-Austin’s admissions policy, which takes into account the applicant’s race in a limited way, was unconstitutional discrimination. Sound familiar? It’s a very similar circumstance to Grutter, but the twist is in what the University of Texas already does to increase minority enrollment.

The great state of Texas had a problem. It wanted to increase minority enrollment in its flagship school. It’s response was to adopt a top 10 percent plan. This plan says that if you graduated in the top 10 percent of your high-school, you were guaranteed admission to UT-Austin. This plan fills up 80 percent of all available spots in UT freshman class. Ironically, because many of Texas’ high-schools operate under de facto segregation, the 10 percent plan worked well to increase minority enrollment.

In the first year, the plan increased Black enrollment from 2.7 to 3.0 percent. Hispanic enrollment went from 12.6 to 13.2 percent. But the university still felt this wasn’t enough. It conducted studies that established that minorities still felt isolated in classes. It polled students who spoke about the lack of diversity. After these measures were taken, the school adopted an admissions policy in addition to the 10 percent plan.

This new plan goes like this: If you are not automatically granted admission through the 10 percent plan, your application is judged based on two metrics. There are 2 indices: an Academic Index, and a Personal Achievement Index. The Academic Index looks at your high school GPA, coursework, and the difficulty of the curriculum at your high-school. The Personal Achievement Index looks at your community service, household makeup, socioeconomic status, compelling circumstances outlined in your personal statement, and many other facts . . . including your race. These indices are only analyzed for Texas residents who are not in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. This is the plan that Abigail Fisher felt was unconstitutional. The words of her brief spell out her sentiment:

“Although [Fisher's] academic credentials exceeded those of many admitted minority candidate’s, UT denied her application.”

This sentiment seems to be at the heart of this, and many other affirmative action suits. You have a White applicant who feels in their heart that their judgment of their own credentials is better than the judgment of admissions professionals who assess thousands of students each year for a living. The thinking can be reduced to “I know I am better than these darkies, therefore I should have gotten in.”

The first person to make the above argument.

Let’s see if this is true according to UT. The university’s brief is telling; let’s see how miss Fisher stacked up:

  • She was NOT in the top 10 percent of her high school graduating class.
  • SAT Score: 1180 of a possible 1600.
  • GPA: 3.59

Because Ms. Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her class, she gets scored based on the Academic Index and her Personal Achievement Index. A high enough score on both of these indices would get her into the doors of UT-Austin. According to their brief:

“[Fisher] scored an AI of 3.1 and received a PAI score of less than 6. Due to the stiff competition and [Fisher's] relatively low AI score, [Fisher] would not have been admitted to the Fall 2008 Freshman class even if she had received a “perfect” PAI score of 6.”

Well, there you have it. Even having the highest possible score on the index that takes race into account, Abigail Fisher would not have made the cut. In other words, she could have been Black and worked in a coal mine, while still managing to learn Mandarin and play the cello, and STILL NOT HAVE BEEN ADMITTED. Yet she thinks she should have. She thinks the thing that got in her way was her race. Not her GPA. Not her SAT score.

Many opponents of race-conscious admissions policies point to the “overmatch theory”.  This is the notion that affirmative action policies place under-qualified minorities in academic environments they cannot survive in. The reasoning goes either these minorities flunk out, or they are stuck with the stigma of being an affirmative action recipient and their peers don’t respect their achievements. The problem with this is, any constitutional admissions cannot make race the difference maker. Thus one’s status as a minority would and could never be the sole reason one got into a school. A candidate would have to meet several other criteria as well, in this case the academic credentials, and then receive a negligible boost being from an under-represented minority.

The wrinkle in this case comes from the strict scrutiny analysis. The university needs to have a compelling interest in racial diversity. The school says it does. Michigan said it did in the Grutter case and the Court agreed. The mechanism to achieve this compelling interest needs to be narrowly tailored, but there’s the hitch. Fisher’s argument is that because the school already employed a race-neutral plan (the top 10 percent plan), and this achieved more diversity, UT’s additional race conscious plan is therefore not narrowly tailored.

Fisher is essentially saying that enough minorities would get into UT-Austin through the 10 percent plan, and therefore the additional plan is unconstitutional. Thinking about this briefly, she is arguing for the sole use of a plan that would not have gotten her into the school at all . . . because she was NOT IN THE TOP TEN PERCENT OF HER HIGH SCHOOL.

The question will become whether the Court will defer to the expert opinion of the university, its exhaustive studies, and professional judgment in deciding the number of minorities that meet its goal of diversity, or will it defer to the assessment of the effectiveness of the 10 percent plan as seen by Abigail Fisher and her attorneys?

Some think this case could spell the end for affirmative action in higher education. I don’t think so. Only UT’s policies are challenged here, not the underlying reasoning from Grutter. If the Court sides with Fisher, however, public schools could be greatly bound in the ways they can pursue diversity.

Spurned White folk all over the country will have their eyes on the Supreme Court next Wednesday. Centuries of the the field being slanted in the favor of the majority, followed by only about a decade of the field being only slightly tipped in the other direction, have led the until-recent beneficiaries of discrimination to call for the end of policies that are placing genuinely qualified minorities in college and universities.

Talk about a sense of entitlement.

*Since her initial denial, Ms. Fisher has gone to and graduated from LSU. A judgment in her favor would only produce a remedy that would likely greatly decrease minority enrollment in the University of Texas.

*Author’s Note: A recent New York Times interview of Ms. Fisher has confirmed that she is actually a cellist. Apparently they don’t value the cello at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Comments
7 Responses to “Affirmative Action Now, Affirmative Action Tomorrow, and Affirmative Action FOREVER”
  1. TheycallmeRaul says:

    The wildest part about this is all those majority people complaining about the minority with lesser credentials who got into the school, aren’t saying a word about the WHITE PERSON who got admitted with lesser credentials. Why is it that they automatically assume when they get denied, that every minority had a worse GPA and every white person, must have had a higher one? Who is to say that it was the person with the extra dark tan who took “your slot” in the class, as opposed to anybody else admitted? …but I’m sleep doe.

  2. @Parkour_Lewis says:

    Man, with that GPA and SAT she might not have even gotten a scholarship at Morehouse, lmao #TrueStory.

  3. Kurt says:

    Affirmative Action is simply government-sponsored racism. The black community claims to be anti-racism and yet it continues to enjoy the benefits from government-mandated racism…how ironic!

    Affirmative Action programs need to be ended immediately. Every school applicant should be judged based on their intellectual abilities and academic credentials. If this means that at the top schools the Asian student body expands and the black student body contracts, then so be it.

    I attended a top-14 law school and I can tell you that being black added about 10 points to a black applicant’s LSAT score. Schools really do black students a disservice by admitting them into academic programs when their credentials are inferior to those of their classmates. Several of the black students in my graduating class weren’t able to pass a state bar exam, which isn’t exactly a difficult task.

    • djonesmhc says:

      Presumably your implicit premise is that because race has nothing to do with the merit of the student, it shouldn’t be considered at all in the admissions process. Let’s take a moment and extend that statement to its logical conclusion.

      If race has nothing to do with the merit of the student, then it shouldn’t be considered in the admissions process. This then implies that only things that have to do with the merit of the student should be considered. Here, I operationalize “merit” to mean the terms you use, “intellectual abilities and academic credentials.” Therefore, only intellectual abilities and academic credentials should be considered in the admissions process.

      Well, congratulations, by your logic, you just eliminated legacy clauses, a metric that has nothing to do with intellectual abilities and academic credentials from consideration in the admissions process. But, you see, if the central tenet of the philosophy that you and other espouse is that students should be judged only on there academic credentials, then why don’t those of your ilk protest legacy admissions? Why don’t you pass ballot initiatives to end those? You don’t because, especially at the most prestigious schools, including your top-14 law school [did I congratulate you on that?] things like legacy admissions benefit those who are already of the upper social classes.

      Alas, I don’t begrudge your self-interests. Why on earth would anyone want to end something that benefits them so greatly? One wouldn’t dare risk the advantages bestowed upon them by their parentage. An advantage attributable only to the accident of birth.

      P.S. I sure hope you don’t TELL your Black colleagues you presume they got into their law schools based solely on the color of their skin and not because they were academically qualified candidates. I assume you keep these views to yourself, otherwise, things could get a little tense around the water cooler.

      • Kurt says:

        I don’t think that there are nearly as many spots at top law schools for legacies as you seem to think there are. I do suspect that wealthy people, regardless of race, may be able to “buy” their admittance if their families agree to donate a lot of money for a library or something along those lines, but there are few people who get admitted this way. Maybe there are more people who get accepted to a college, but there are far fewer law school students per class, so it would surprise me if there were many legacies at any of the top law schools.

        And believe me, the black students who graduated with me were well-aware that many of their classmates thought they didn’t belong.

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  1. [...] will hear oral arguments in Fisher v the University of Texas, a case which we have written about (check the link for a synopsis) and you should know about as far as its chances to change Affirmative Action law in this country. [...]

  2. […] The wait for the biggest case involving Affirmative Action in recent years is now over. Sort of. The case most people have been watching the United States Supreme Court for, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, got a decision today. But it is not the decision most were expecting. It did not decide the constitutionality of the university’s’ limited affirmative action plan as many thought it would. But to understand what happened, you’ve gotta know the facts. The details about young Abigail Fisher and her case and arguments can be found here. […]



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