Affirmative Action Must Go



Affirmative action has once again found its way into the national spotlight.

On Oct. 10, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas (2012).  Abigail Noel Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin after her application for admission was denied in 2008.  The district court and court of appeals were unimpressed with the arguments of Fisher’s legal team, but the Supreme Court, despite having seemingly decided the issue of affirmative action with the precedential case Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), agreed to hear her case.

In this particular case, the University of Texas began using affirmative action in 2004 in an attempt to provide increased balance in the racial diversity of each class.  The Obama administration backs the University of Texas.

“Everyone competes against everyone else. Race is not a mechanical automatic factor. It’s a holistic individualized consideration,” U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said.

Using race as a factor in the admissions at all leads to a phenomenon known as “mismatch.” When race is used as a factor in admissions, the favored students’ grades or test scores  are often raised.  Thus, instead of creating a good learning environment for all students, certain minority groups start college with an academic disadvantage.

Richard Sander, a law professor at UCLA, and Stuart Taylor Jr., a journalist and non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argue that minority students with lower test scores would be better served by going to other institutions rather than the elite institutions they are being steered toward.

A priority should be given to making sure students find the proper environment rather than being forced to attend a “better” university. Minority students are 80 percent more likely, according to University of Virginia psychologist Fred Smyth, to achieve career goals in the fields of science and engineering, when they are attending a school that is a good match.

Professors Sander and Taylor claim that affirmative action also causes social damage: “When colleges use large preferences, they interfere with social assimilation, and the minorities who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of these preferences often feel socially isolated and self-segregate.”

Affirmative action attempts to treat outcomes while doing nothing to treat the underlying causes of disproportionate academic success.  The currently conservative-leaning Supreme Court is likely to, while not completely overturning affirmative action, limit its scope.  It correctly identifies the ineffectiveness of affirmative action as a solution to problems in the educational system.