The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

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February 21, 2024
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The End of Race-Based Affirmative Action

The landmark decision from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court can determine the future of college admissions
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The landmark Supreme Court decision reversed previous precedents from as recently as 2016 that had ruled race-based affirmative action constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted in favor of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a legal advocacy group, on June 29 in two cases: SFFA v. Harvard University and SFFA v. University of North Carolina. In the 6-3 landmark decision, the court’s conservative justices deemed race-based affirmative action unconstitutional. SFFA alleged that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) discriminated against Asian Americans in their application process, and that their race-based admissions programs violated parts of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment. 

According to Britannica, affirmative action is defined as “the active effort to improve employment, educational and other opportunities for members of groups that have been subjected to discrimination.” It considers gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, ethnic origin and race. If Asian Americans are being discriminated against in the college admissions processes due to practices like affirmative action, then this is an issue we need to resolve; we should not diminish their plight. Claiming (like in the cases) that Asian Americans are not accepted into selective schools because Black, Indigenous and Latino people are being chosen instead, does not solve the issue of discrimination — it only fuels division between racial groups. 

The decision overturned decades old precedents from similar cases, including one as recent as 2016 in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, where the Supreme Court ruled that race as a consideration of admissions did not violate the 14th Amendment. The allegations against Harvard and UNC were first brought to the lower courts between 2013 and 2014 respectively by SFFA, who accused the universities of holding Asian Americans to a higher standard based on their race and giving preference to Black, Latino and Native American applicants

Personally, I think my race gave me a leg up, considering I didn’t include test scores and recommendations in my application.

Both Harvard and UNC denied these allegations and defended their admissions programs, but a few years later, the Supreme Court would find their claims of “no discrimination” to be untrue; SCOTUS ruled that race-based admissions procedures at both universities were unconstitutional, marking the end of race-conscious affirmative action practices at colleges and universities — public and private — in the United States. 

For decades, universities have used the practice of affirmative action to increase diversity in their student body and across their campuses, but today they are being forced to find other ways of achieving inclusive and diverse environments due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

According to a study performed by Mark C. Long and Nicole A. Bateman, current research shows that in states such as California and Texas where race-based affirmative action was already banned, enrollment of Black, Latino and Indigenous people decreased significantly, particularly at more selective colleges. With the national ban, Black, Latino and Indigenous enrollment is expected to decrease even more. 

So what does this mean for Fordham, the private Jesuit university of New York? 

On the day the Supreme Court released its decision, University President Tania Tetlow addressed the ruling in a university-wide email. 

“When universities recruit a class, it is not possible for us to line students up in rank order of merit,” she said. “We understand that talent comes in many forms, including the brilliant creativity of an artist; the fierce discipline of an athlete, or dancer, or soldier; and remarkable acts of leadership.” 

SCOTUS ruled that race-based admissions procedures at both universities were unconstitutional, marking the end of race-conscious affirmative action practices at colleges and universities.

Tetlow hit it right on the nose. There is an array of facets to consider during the admissions process beyond a person’s grades or standardized testing score. Ensuring a holistic examination of applicants — including one’s race — is essential to maintaining an inclusive and diverse environment reflective of the world we live in. College is where many people (like myself) see that reflection of the real world for the first time. We are able to witness the complexity and intersectionality of the human experience, and see the type of resilience, ingenuity and leadership necessary for us to coincide and survive in this world. 

To put restrictions on what elements are considered during these admissions processes limits diversity, learning, growth, our view of the world and ability to make it a better place. Without the practice of race-based affirmative action — which considers these aspects — I don’t believe that I would have been accepted into Fordham if I were to apply today.

I had excellent grades and I had the extracurriculars, but my test scores were awful. I did not submit the scores or any letters of recommendation. I even submitted my application late, but I was still accepted. 

Personally, I think my race gave me a leg up, considering I didn’t include test scores and recommendations in my application. This is a strong claim to make because many people of color (including myself) refute claims that we are products of race-based affirmative action. The claims discount our documented qualifications by suggesting we were only accepted into selective schools to meet a racial quota and that we are taking seats from qualified white students — and even Asian American students based on the Supreme Court cases. 

But, I don’t believe that I took a seat away from any qualified white or Asian student as SFFA might claim. I am qualified and deserve my spot, but without race-based affirmative action or consideration of my race, I think I would have just been seen as a straight A’s carbon copy with nothing other than some brains and a few accolades to offer Fordham. 

Assuming that my race makes me interesting is not necessarily a bad thing. It can come off as patronizing or as typecasting (depending on the assumption), but it is true that the way I see the world is very different from my non-Black counterparts. And for some colleges, including this worldview on their campus may be more valuable to creating a diverse environment than a person who has viewed the world without that lens. 



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About the Contributor
LEAH MALLORY, Contributing Writer

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    David SSep 2, 2023 at 10:02 pm

    Unfortunately, if you include someone using race you are also excluding some else because of their race. Is that just? Absolutely not.

    You can assess people as wholistically but you should not include factors that they cannot control, like race.

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