Supreme Court may limit affirmative action in college admissions

In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a white, college-age student from Houston, filed suits with the Supreme Court and claimed that she was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin while minority students with similar or worse grades, test scores and extracurricular activities were accepted.

A decision on the case will come any week now. Yahoo news comments, “Even a small move in the Texas case could mark the beginning of a new chapter limiting college administrators' discretion in using race in deciding on admissions.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 1978, in the case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court allowed for schools to consider race as a factor in future admissions decisions. The decision by the nine Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of affirmative action, with a narrow margin of 5 to 4 votes. The close decision illustrated the struggles of the Supreme Court in deciding how much influence affirmative action should have.

However, according to Yahoo news, with the current bench more conservative than thirty-five years ago, “there is a strong chance a majority of the justices will undercut that decade-old ruling on a University of Michigan case.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, who serves as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and also dissented with the Michigan case, wrote that “the court has long accepted universities' stance that racial diversity enhances the educational experience for all students, while insisting such policies be narrowly drawn.”

"The court seems to have been leaning away from allowing affirmative action for some time," University of Virginia Law Professor John Jeffries said to Yahoo news. "If they close the door, that, potentially, is a very big deal."

Fisher has many opponents who claim she and her lawyers jump to many assumptions in her case, especially that another student directly took a place that would have been hers. They argue that race had little to do with the decision for her rejection, and instead was just a small factor amidst others like her grades and application.gavel3-300x300

Boston College itself has a strong Irish-Catholic tradition, with more than 70 percent of its population being white and less than 30 percent minority races. However, the admissions office deeply cares about student body diversity.

The possibility that the Supreme Court will have a conservative decision concerns some Boston College students. Donny Wang, CSOM ’16, said that “If the Supreme Court prohibits the colleges from considering race, it will be very wrong. The university should be a place for diversity, so people who have different backgrounds can have an equal possibility to achieve high-level education. Minorities may not have the same opportunities during their high school. The colleges should take it into consideration.”

Whether or not the Supreme Court will make such a landmark decision as to overturn previous affirmative action rulings remains to be seen. Over the next few weeks, colleges’ attention will turn to the Supreme Court to set a precedent for future admissions decisions.

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Jing Xu