Should race be considered in college admissions?

This week, the Supreme Court will once again consider the constitutionality of racial preferences in admissions decisions by public universities.

Abigail Fisher, a white 22 year-old, who recently graduated from Louisiana State University, said the University of Texas  held her race against her when it didn’t admit her.

From The New York Times:

“I’m hoping,” she said, “that they’ll completely take race out of the issue in terms of admissions and that everyone will be able to get into any school that they want no matter what race they are but solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it…”

“Three-quarters of applicants from Texas are admitted under a program that guarantees admission to the top students in every high school in the state. (Almost everyone calls this the Top Ten program, though the percentage cutoff can vary. Ms. Fisher barely missed the cutoff.) The remaining Texas students and those from elsewhere are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity.”

The University of Texas said Fisher wouldn’t have been admitted regardless of race. But the larger defense is that it must be free to put together a varied student body, a view supported by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Grutter V. Bollinger.

“Admissions officers at colleges and universities almost universally endorse the idea that students from diverse backgrounds learn from each other, overcome stereotypes, and in so doing prepare themselves for leadership positions in society. Many critics of affirmative action say that there is at best a weak correlation between race and having a range of views presented in the classroom.”

“Others say the Constitution does not permit the government to sort people by race, no matter how worthy its goal. “While racial diversity on college campuses is beneficial, it cannot be attained by racial discrimination,” said Edward Blum, an adviser to Ms. Fisher and a driving force behind the Fisher case….”

(The story and cases are fairly complicated. Click the link to read all of it. I can only pull a few paragraphs.)

In the college class that I teach I do think it adds to the experience and discussion to have students of different races and from different countries. It’s interesting how their experiences growing up affect their news judgment and the subjects they are interested in covering. It adds so much to our discussions to know what would and wouldn’t be allowed on the front of a foreign newspaper.

So what do you think: Should race be considered in college admissions? What do you think of the Top 10 approach? When you were in college, were your classes diverse? How did that affect your learning?

45 comments Add your comment

I wonder if

October 9th, 2012
6:37 am

these same colleges would also start a less talented football / basketball/ baseball player just to increase diversity of the team?

Michelle

October 9th, 2012
6:53 am

I was really hurt when I had applied to college and didn’t get into the school. I saw that my ethnicity of being Asian didn’t help me but probably made it harder. However having graduated many years now from a great University, working and living life I understand how hard it is for minority kids coming from lower income background to get the same chances in life.

I have grown more understanding as to why there is affirmative action and have accepted it because we “live together in a society” we want the betterment of our society. Chances were already against them from their surroundings and environment, it is only fair they also get some advantages too.

eddy

October 9th, 2012
7:13 am

Affirmative action is discriminatory. So let’s see, we want to end racial discrimination but we now discriminate based upon race to get into college. In our goofy world, this makes sense?

Voice of Reason

October 9th, 2012
7:36 am

How is it fair that if I happen to be of one race but a person of a different race is more qualified that I get to take advantage of something that I had absolutely no control over?

Van Jones

October 9th, 2012
7:39 am

It’s only OK if you have enough mouthpieces stumping for your partucular color. Oh, and unless you are caucasian. Hey, I see a little “asian” in caucasian…

Mayhem

October 9th, 2012
8:16 am

No race SHOULD NOT be considered. Hard work, good grade, community involvement, etc. SHOULD be considered.

But to deny admission to one so someone of another ethnicity can attend is racial. I don’t care what color your skin is.

Everyone in this country is born with the same opportunity to succeed. It’s what you do with your life, and the decisions you make aoong the way, that lead you where you are today.

guest

October 9th, 2012
8:17 am

Mayhem said it perfectly.

K's Mom

October 9th, 2012
8:31 am

Perfectly said Mayhem.

Jeff

October 9th, 2012
8:36 am

At this point in our country, the last couple of generations have had the same opportunity to go to the same government provided public educational institutions. Which means, we’ve had the same access to the same basic education.

We should no longer have to make any exceptions based on race, gender, etc.

And if we do, would someone please provide a definitive answer on what it will take to finally “be even”. Not a catch phrase with no actualy definition, no constantly changing goal that can only be defined, and of course re-defined as necessary, bu you.

Give me an actual measurement of what constitutes equality. And stick to it.

Mayhem

October 9th, 2012
8:46 am

Thank you!! Sorry for all the typos….

Peace...if possible

October 9th, 2012
8:47 am

Although this is a very sensitive and challenging issue, to those that believe we all have the same opportunity to succeed, you need to get out of the suburbs or your downtown condos more often. Go visit places such as Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, or the poorest sections of our inner cities and rural communities. Then get back with me about everyone having the “same” opportunity. Let’s try to think this one through while avoiding the clichés.

guest

October 9th, 2012
8:56 am

Peace,

Pull your head our of your %&*. Everyone is born with the same opportunities. There is no invisible barrier that is preventing these people from leaving the “poorest sections of our inner cities.” If the parents are too dumb to leave so that they can have better lives for their families, then be prepared to live with the consequences. Also, please explain how so many kids from these “poorest sections of our innner cities” become successful. As long as idiots like you continue to make excuses for these “poor” people, they will never change.

Mayhem

October 9th, 2012
9:07 am

AMEN Guest!!!

JOD

October 9th, 2012
9:14 am

Nicely said, Mayhem, and good question, Jeff.

Instead of race, ability/talent should be considered. Kids should be counseled in the direction of technical school if that is where their talents and interests lie. Not every kid should be trying to get through a traditional college education – we know that doesn’t work based on drop out rates and remedial classes. Last time I checked, the economy needs lots of service professionals, and there is no shame (and a good bit of money in some cases!) in that.

Metro Coach

October 9th, 2012
9:36 am

To go along with JOD’s point-I was watching an episode of the Food Network show “Chopped” the other day, and the contestants were all teenage chefs. They were all under the age of 18, the youngest being a 13 year old girl. 13, and she had much more knowledge of the kitchen than I ever will, as someone in my mid-20s. Why should that 13 year old have to go to through the same high school curriculum/college as someone who wants to be a doctor, teacher, engineer,mechanic, electrician, or business person? In fact, why should all of them have to go through the EXACT SAME curriculum? College basic classes and high school classes are pretty much the same information, with slightly more depth added in college(well, in some cases). This is why charter schools and Montessori(sp?) schools are gaining so much ground and public schools are failing. We’re trying to cram every peg into a round shaped hole, and they don’t all fit. Jeff is right, the time where Affirmative Action is necessary has long passed. The question of “race or ethnicity” needs to be removed from college applications and everyone needs to be considered equally on merits. Will that result in more caucasian students getting into colleges? Simple population math says of course, because caucasians are still the majority of the population. But that doesn’t make it racial, that’s just reality. Black, Asian, Hispanic, and whatever other races occupy this country are still going to get into school, and in greater and greater numbers. Affirmative Action is nothing but Democrats telling minorities “You can’t do it on your own, you have to have our help.” Its pretty insulting when you think about it.

HB

October 9th, 2012
9:44 am

Does anyone really think ability and talent aren’t considered? Whenever arguments about affirmative action come up, people immediately start talking about it as if kids pulling straight Cs are regularly being admitted over stellar students because of their race.

Jeff

October 9th, 2012
9:44 am

Peace, do you mean avoid cliche’s like “get out of the suburbs”? I lived in dowtown Atlanta for more than 10 years. Careful with YOUR cliche’s, assumptions and stereotypes.

DB

October 9th, 2012
10:01 am

There will never be true equality until questions of race are as insignificant as what color of hair someone has. I loved Denzel Washington’s response to a fairly ingenuous reporter after he and Halle Berry both won the Academy Award. When asked if he thought it was a big moment for civil rights because two people of color had won the top spots in the Academy Awards, his response was unfailingly polite but direct when he commented something to the effect that true equality would be if reporters didn’t notice what color his skin was when he won an award.

As long as exceptions are made because of the color of someone’s skin, there will always be resentments and accusations of unfairness. I’ve always wondered: At what point do we STOP making “exceptions” for someone’s race? How do you determine when we’ve reached true “equality”? What, exactly, is the deciding factor, or the magic number that says: “OK, we’re there. We need to stop making excuses for non-performers.”? At this point, it’s been almost 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s 2 and a half generations of affirmative action, and we’re STILL arguing over quotas.

What would happen if we did take race out of application process and judged everyone simply on their accomplishments? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? So why not just DO it?

Voice of Reason

October 9th, 2012
10:02 am

@HB

So you would be completely fine if you and another candidate were up for the same position and had the same qualifications and the only reason they chose the other candidate over you was because his race helped them fill a quota?

You are saying that is fair?

FCM

October 9th, 2012
10:06 am

Affirmative action should be abolished. Time to “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

dc

October 9th, 2012
10:11 am

in the wise words of a supreme court justice….”the way to end discrimination based on race, is to stop discriminating based on race”.

FCM

October 9th, 2012
10:21 am

for those asking how we know things are equal: I propose a litmus test, oe test in which a single factor (as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive.

Here is the test I propose: When a man who is of the “minority” race, obtains the highest office of the land (Commander in Chief…aka President)…having received the majority of the electoral votes in a given presidencial race, we have achieved equality through a litmus test.

Now for those opposed we achieved that limitmus in 2008. SO it obviously CAN occur.

PhotoMomof4

October 9th, 2012
10:24 am

Of course race should not be considered in college admissions. Logically, by using race as a determining factor, the colleges are saying that because you are a certain race, you are inherently smarter (or dumber) than someone of a different race. Or better able to learn based on your race. Of my children, they all learn differently and some have done better in the educational arena. All of them happen to be of the same race.

Warrior Woman

October 9th, 2012
10:57 am

I agree with Mayhem. Affirmative action is racism. If you want to support those with fewer opportunities, you should be looking a socioeconomic status, not race. However, the best idea is to make the decisions based purely on merit.

LeeH1

October 9th, 2012
11:02 am

The problem can be solved by applying discrimination to family income- those with less income get a place. This is the best way to allow people to move up in society, and surprise! It eliminates racial injustice as well.

There is certainly no reason why a black kid from a rich family should get priority over a white kid from a poor family. The rich kid most likely has applied to a number of schools- the poor guy to only one or two. Give the poor kid a chance first, and race won’t matter.

Jenna K

October 9th, 2012
11:03 am

Race should only be considered as a tie-breaker and only if the applicants meet all of the base subjective standards. Dumbing down college to compensate for bad lower education is bad for everyone. We need programs that get to the kids long before they’re applying to college.

HB

October 9th, 2012
11:15 am

VOR, I’m saying meaningful discussion never happens because people can’t seem to get past the idea that considering race = not considering ability and talent. Using your scenario, yes, it’s unfair for a quota to be the primary tie-breaking factor (by the way, are there actual quotas used anywhere?). But what if you had 10 situations as you described in different workplaces, race was supposedly not a factor, and all the hirers chose white candidates? That has been common in the past and what affirmative action was trying to remedy.

I don’t like the idea of quotas, but racial discrimination in the workplace has been common — the question is to what extent and do we still need affirmative action for employment and university admissions? Have we reached a point where the playing field is fairly level? I don’t know the answer.

DB asked an important question: “What would happen if we did take race out of application process and judged everyone simply on their accomplishments? Isn’t that the ultimate goal?” I don’t think that is the ultimate goal for many schools. I think they have dual goals of admitting great students and building a student body that will lead to the best possible learning environment. Many people, myself included, believe bringing students together from a broad range of backgrounds, including but not limited to different races and ethnicities, creates a better learning environment for everyone. If taking race into consideration in admissions is the only way they know to accomplish that, then I can see why universities wouldn’t want to eliminate it.

FCM

October 9th, 2012
11:24 am

“Half the state colleges in Georgia have fewer students this year than last”

Front page of AJC.com

Perhaps if college’s didn’t keep raising the tuition and applied sense to fees (why do I pay an athletic fee as a part time online student?) they would get people enrolled regardless of race.

Mayhem

October 9th, 2012
11:25 am

My guess is it all comes down to the almighty dollar. The more diverse your “campus” the more federal funding you receive????

JOD

October 9th, 2012
11:48 am

@FCM – I just finished reading that, too. I thought this was telling – from a 20-year-old student who dropped out this year: “It was frustrating to take out loans and pay for college when I truly had no desire to go,” Ballard said. “I was pressured to go to college because that’s what you do right after high school, but I’m just not ready yet.”

tired

October 9th, 2012
11:50 am

Race should not be considered at all, only merit. Making any decision based on race is discriminatory. Period.

guest

October 9th, 2012
12:06 pm

Jenna,

“Race should only be considered as a tie-breaker and only if the applicants meet all of the base subjective standards.” Wow, what a dumb statement. This is not game. This is about lives. So, I guess you’re saying everything being equal, screw the white kid.

jmb

October 9th, 2012
1:16 pm

I walked in on my teen watching a Judge Judy espisode yesterday just as the Judge was commenting on why our economy will never get better. A young man on the show had taken out over 14k in tuition loans and just dropped out. He had recieved a refund of over 3k from one school and he spent the $$ to move out of state rather than pay it back toward his loans. When JJ asked if he planned on paying them back, he replied that he did not have a job so he did not see any way of ever doing so, hence, her statement. It made me wonder how much $$ we have thrown away on kids gettting these grants with no intention of ever finishing school and only taking the loans because they were available with ease. My daughter took a grant out a couple years ago and went one year and then decided to join the army but she had paid back all of what she took out as of this date. It’s a requirement for being in the army but just how many will actually pay them back that don’t finish school? Not many would be my guess and if we don’t put some guidelines in place in order to get these grants, it’s only going to drain our economy even more in the years to come.

DB

October 9th, 2012
1:17 pm

@Jenna: I disagree strongly. I can’t even argue what you said — it’s so far beyond my belief that race should be a non-factor, I can’t even formulate a coherent rebuttal.

@LeeH1: Income as a measurement? Really? So, if you have a highly motivated, highly intelligent student who has worked his ass off all through school, he needs to go to the back fo the line because his PARENTS made more moeny than someone else’s PARENTS? Really? So much for individual effort — nothing matters except what kind of money your parents pull down?

@HB: Interesting take on admissions. Part of me, though, wonders if that kind of diversity wouldn’t happen naturally with blind admissions. Your comment, Many people, myself included, believe bringing students together from a broad range of backgrounds, including but not limited to different races and ethnicities, creates a better learning environment for everyone.” seems to beg the question that this kind of diversity can’t be accomplished through selection for talent and achievement alone. If talent and achievement occur regardless of race or culture, then why should race or culture be an artificial barrier? It’s an interesting question. What ARE colleges trying to accomplish? On one hand, they are seen as an incubator for teaching people how to think. On another hand, they are seen as the “new high school”, in that if you don’t have a college degree, it’s like not having a high school diploma 50 years ago. With my own kids almost all graduated from college, it’s been interesting to see how the expectations for college have changed over the last few generations. It used to be that college was seen as a means of teaching people how to think and giving them a broader base of knowledge from which to apply decisions. Nowadays, it seems more like some sort of expensive trade school, where kids are encouraged to only major in things that will “make them money” after they graduate,

MomsRule

October 9th, 2012
1:33 pm

Like several others I have to agree with Mayhem at 8:16am. Perfectly stated.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 9th, 2012
1:36 pm

I tutored at an inner-city Atlanta public school when I worked downtown at the AJC. (They would give you time off from work to help in the community.) The school that I helped at every week was not in any way comparable to the elementary school in Gwinnett County that my kids attended. The physical plant of the school was aged and falling apart. It literally smelled. Some — not all — of the teachers were not motivated. The teacher that I was helping with was more than happy to have me come in and essentially teach her class while she did God knows what. I worked with fourth graders who did not know basic phonics. They couldn’t read!!!! They were fourth graders!!!!! I brought in my own supplies to use in the class and supplementary materials to teach with. The opportunities for those children were absolutely NOT the same that my children received in Gwinnett.

A few years before that I tutored in East Harlem in NYC. Again, the public school experience that these children received was not in any way comparable to what my children received in their Gwinnett County school.

It is absolutely untrue that public school experiences are equivalent. It is absolutely untrue children leave their schools having mastered the same skills and having had the same experiences.

HB

October 9th, 2012
2:01 pm

DB, I think the issue is partly how talent and achievement are determined. Some of what schools rely on to determine talent — SAT scores, GPA, difficulty of coursework — can be skewed by factors that often correlate with race and culture, such as educational background of parents, language spoken at home, income of family and the community (a not terribly poor kid from a very poor area could be at a disadvantage by having a lousy public with few advanced course offerings), etc. And racial discrimination from the past, even if there is less of it now, has a lingering impact — minority families are still less well off statistically than white families. That’s not to say that the academic criteria used by admissions department are bad, but I do think if using those alone with no consideration given to non-merit factors, they’re not going to have as diverse a group as they’re aiming for and they may not find the talent they want. A kid from a working class family for whom English not the primary language spoken at home and who attends a so-so public school may be harder working and smarter than a kid with well-educated parents and a tougher h.s. curriculum who has the same SAT score. I do think it would be foolish for universities to prioritize race over all other demographics, though. A diverse student body should also have kids from different economic backgrounds and different communities (urban, rural, suburban, and if a university that draws nationally, different states). From what I hear, high school attended is often a big non-merit consideration. A student from a great high school will have a tougher time getting into some schools. Colleges don’t want too many students from one school, so even though a student may have higher scores than someone on the other side of the state, if there are 10 better students at their own school admitted, then they may not be accepted in a effort to maintain geographic diversity.

guest

October 9th, 2012
2:08 pm

Theresa,

What you said has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with culture, e.g., the liberal media and government telling kids that it’s ok to be stupid because we’ll make the kids that succeed pay more taxes to take care of you. Kids have to see how much it sucks to be dirt poor and then they’ll be motivated to study hard.

Frontman

October 9th, 2012
2:37 pm

The whole problem with the Bollinger decision is that it is predicated on an assumption that “diversity is always better.” Although I personally know people from many different backgrounds, that doesn’t ipso facto make me a better, wiser or smarter person than someone who hasn’t been exposed to people of many different backgrounds. What “diversity” usually means is that someone in power gets to pick people for admission to a group (e.g., university students) on totally subjective standards which they themselves make up. Bollinger allows them to basically say, “Our criteria for admission are whatever the !#@$#$@% we say they are.” Same junk is in place at all major companies as well, and it has no place there either.

Kent Clark

October 9th, 2012
3:22 pm

“ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY!”

Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 9th, 2012
4:33 pm

Guest — Those kids didn’t want to be stupid and they didn’t think it was OK to be stupid. They needed someone to sit down with them and teach them how to read. By the end of the year they were reading Harry Potter!! I gave them all Harry Potter books. Those may have been the first books they ever owned. They needed someone to work with them and be able to concentrate.

You have no idea if their parents were working double shifts so they weren’t reading them to go to bed or maybe the parents couldn’t read hence the kids couldn’t. My argument is they are not given the same opportunities even in a public school and they don’t grow up with the same experiences.

DB

October 9th, 2012
9:48 pm

@TWG: What in the hell were the teachers in those schools doing? Not to denigrate your efforts — but if a volunteer could come in a few hours a week and end up teaching the kids to read, what in the hell were the teachers doing for the previous four years?

me

October 10th, 2012
11:26 am

Do ppl not know that affirmative action benefited WHITE women the most. I find it something that white ppl who don’t have to worry about being racially profiled have so much to say. College admissions look at more than just race, if race were the case, what about the white ppl that don’t get into GT, UGA, GSU, Havard, Yale, etc. Shouldn’t they be complaining? There are thousands of universities and b/c this chick didn’t get into a college of maybe her first choice she wants to whine. Is she going to whine b/c she didn’t get offered that job she really wanted. People that have never experienced TRUE discrimination should hush.

Robert Y

October 10th, 2012
5:33 pm

I am an Asian-American. I graduated from UC Berkeley, which does not have AA and subsequently is 44% Asian (Source: http://berkeley.edu/about/fact.shtml), and I am a CPA. Let me tell you, because I am not Black or Hispanic, no one has given me any preferential treatment.

It’s interesting that one of the justices on the court is Black and another is Hispanic. It is commonly understood that they were appointed due to their race and skin color. There is a very high proportion of Asians at all the top universities, but somehow it was easier to find a qualified Black or Hispanic to fill the empty slots!

But also let me tell you that there is plenty of discrimination out there against minorities. I’ve experienced it at most companies where I have worked. Usually it is subtle; sometimes it is overt. I’m not asking for a handout or preferential treatment; I am simply stating a fact.

I am writing because we live in Round Rock, TX. We sent our kids to Kumon and they go to Westwood, one of the top high schools in the area. My older son got into the university of his choice because he graduated with a 4.0 GPA (on a 5.0 scale). My second son is probably not going to. We all know that my second son will probably lose his spot to a less qualified Black or Hispanic, but we don’t whine about it. I tell him that he should have studied harder.

I also know that if one of my kids had ever gone missing, we would be at a disadvantage because their disappearance would not receive the kind of media attention that is given to White victims. Oh well.

Abigail Fisher will be fine. Now that she’s in the workforce, racism will now start working in her favor.

So I find it rather amusing to see some Whites playing the “victim card” because, from where I’m standing, Whites in this country are dealt a pretty good hand.

George

October 15th, 2012
3:23 pm

Affirmative Action benefits mostly white women such as Abigail Fisher. Had she gotten into Harvard or Princeton or even University of Michigan or UCLA her case will be considerably strengthened. Instead, she went to Louisiana State, which tells us that she is not that qualified after all.