Race-based admissions must end
The¬†future of race-based college admissions once again lies in the hands of U.S. Supreme Court justices, who are currently considering a case challenging the University of Texas at Austin for its inclusion of race as a factor in the admissions process. The case, Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin,was brought by a Caucasian applicant, Abigail Fisher, who was rejected by UT in 2008 and is now claiming that the university discriminated against her based on her race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
If the court were to rule in Fisher‚Äôs favor, against the university‚Äôs current policy of race-based affirmative action, their decision would be a victory for equality of opportunity for all hard-working citizens, regardless of the color of their skin. This would effectively move society closer toward an age in which people are truly judged based on the content of their character.
Last Wednesday, the justices began deliberating over affirmative action‚Äôs constitutionality, hearing oral arguments from both parties. A ruling that agrees with Fisher could lead to the adoption of race-neutral policies in public universities across the nation and for the sake of integrity and fairness in universities and the rest of society, the court must do so.
The court must consider how the UT Austin admissions process works and if it is constitutional. A state law mandates that all Texas high school seniors who rank in the top 10 percent of their class are accepted. The remaining applicants are considered based on traditional factors such as grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities ‚ÄĒ and race.¬† UT defends its use of race-based admissions as a means to diversify its student body. Affirmative action has long served that beneficial purpose.
But college is a time when young people should be recognized for their positive attributes and potential contributions to the world, whatever color their skin might be. Emphasizing race as a factor of admission reduces applicants to mere statistics, re-drawing the very color lines that affirmative action aims to dissolve. Race is not, nor will it ever be, an accurate predictor of the contributions an applicant would make if accepted to a university.
An additional harm is that race-based affirmative action promotes the myth that individuals of historically disadvantaged backgrounds need the government as their protector and caretaker. These policies keep individuals dependent on the government for success rather than free them from discrimination. This fosters continued divisions along racial lines, focusing on the physical appearance of individuals instead of emphasizing their accomplishments.
To accept an applicant who is less qualified than another because he or she is a member of an ethnic minority contradicts what universities stand for, especially in a country that values hard work and is expected to award individuals based on merit.
If America is to move into a truly post-racism age in which people do not group themselves into narrow categories of ethnicity, the court must rule that UT‚Äôs policy is unconstitutional.
As America advances into an age of globalization, it remains counterintuitive and anachronistic to still be hung up on racial identification. Affirmative action policies keep the wounds of inequalities fresh, creating an endless cycle of racial tensions that detract attention from who individuals are beyond their skin color.
The decision made in this case could do one of two things: continue discriminatory policies in university admissions and remain rooted in a close-minded past, or move society forward toward a future that emphasizes true equality of opportunity.
Only once this paradigm shift occurs will the United States will break in to a post-racism era in where people are rewarded for their character and achievements rather than for surface-level and predetermined qualities such as skin color. There is no better place for this to take place than the nation‚Äôs universities, and the Supreme Court must make the decision that will spark this crucial shift.
Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in political science and Middle East studies. Her column ‚ÄúLeaning Toward Liberty‚ÄĚ runs Mondays.