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Background:  Affirmative Action

Background: Affirmative Action

Full article by Tom Price @ CQ Researcher

The Supreme Court has upheld the use of race in college admissions, but affirmative action is facing new challenges. Many whites continue to oppose giving preference to minorities to compensate for discrimination and to diversify campuses, and the Trump administration says it may sue universities practicing “intentional” discrimination. Several critics question affirmative action’s effectiveness, citing minorities’ continued under-representation at elite universities. But affirmative action’s defenders say it has helped raise minority representation on campuses, and that most universities rely on a “holistic” admissions approach that looks at applicants’ public service, creativity and other attributes, as well as race. Georgetown and other schools are pursuing innovative ways to diversify their student bodies, such as admitting the descendants of slaves owned by their institutions. Meanwhile, activist Edward Blum has filed numerous suits challenging laws and policies that favor minorities over whites.


Abigail Fisher is an unassuming 27-year-old from Sugar Land, Texas, who played the cello and dreamed of attending the University of Texas at Austin, the alma mater of her sister and father.

She also is at the center of a legal storm involving affirmative action. For the past nine years, Fisher has maintained that the university rejected her application in 2008 because she is white, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Her lawsuit twice landed at the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently producing the landmark 2016 ruling that the school could treat “race as a relevant feature within the broader context of a candidate’s application.”1

Nevertheless, Fisher and an advocacy group backing her, Students for Fair Admissions, filed a new lawsuit in late June in state court, arguing that the university’s use of racial preferences in admissions violates state law and the Texas Constitution.2

Critics of affirmative action — policies that seek to compensate for racial and ethnic discrimination and to diversify campuses by admitting more African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities — have long complained that giving preference to minorities in college admissions is a form of reverse discrimination against whites. But the debate is resurfacing, again, in an era of heightened racial tensions in which white supremacists feel emboldened to air their ideology in public, and football players kneel during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice. The United States also is struggling with a contentious transition from America’s first black president to a chief executive whose political base includes whites who feel aggrieved because they believe their values are under siege in a nation where minorities will soon constitute a majority of the population.

Abigail Fisher has been challenging University of Texas (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Abigail Fisher has been challenging University of Texas affirmative-action policies since 2008, when she says the school rejected her application because she is white. Her suit led to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2016 ruling that the school could consider race as one of several factors in evaluating a candidate’s application. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Trump administration also worries supporters of affirmative action. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is preparing to investigate and possibly sue universities whose admission offices practice “intentional race-based discrimination.” And the White House is cutting staff in various agencies’ civil rights offices, making it difficult for the government to pursue affirmative-action or discrimination complaints.3

Kristen Clarke, president of the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the Justice Department’s threat to sue colleges over admissions policies “deeply disturbing. It would be a dog whistle that could invite a lot of chaos and unnecessarily create hysteria among colleges and universities who may fear that the government may come down on them for their efforts to maintain diversity on their campuses.”4

The Trump administration said it simply is responding to a new challenge to affirmative action that the Obama administration had left unresolved: accusations that Asian-Americans suffer when college admissions offices give preferences to black and Hispanic applicants.

Full article by Tom Price @ CQ Researcher