Members of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Eductional Testing Service (ETS) officials, admissions officers, legal experts, and scholars gathered on September 9th, 2013 to discuss the legal implications of Fisher v University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court recently let affirmative action for the purpose of promoting diversity stand, but placed the caveat that universities should consider race-neutral options before employing race-based admissions policies. Unfortunately, yesterday’s conversation appears to have revolved around maintaining status quo rather than around improving admissions policies.
The roundtable gathering discussed relevant research regarding race-neutral options. These options included income, socioeconomic status, and outreach. However, according to Gary Orfield, Professor and Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, “I am convinced that colleges can successfully defend their plans if they are aware of research on the limited value of alternatives and can document why they would not work locally. This research is a step in that process.”
President Johnson fashioned affirmative action to be a pursuit of “equality as fact and as a result;” however, the Supreme Court has declared the singular purpose of affirmative action as a pursuit of diversity on university campuses. The diversity is meant to improve the educational experience for all students. Affirmative action, as is, has failed on both accounts.
Minority groups continue to be underrepresented on campuses through out the nation. Only 14 percent of Blacks, 10 percent of Hispanics, and 11 percent of Native Americans are college educated compared to 25 percent of Whites. Furthermore, broad sweeping racial categories camouflage other underrepresented minority groups. For instance, only 9 percent of Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian Americans as a group are college educated, yet, classified as Asian American, they do not benefit from race-based, admissions policies.
ETS will be releasing the results of the research shortly. It is yet to be seen how Boston colleges will respond; however, with the high concentration of universities in and around the city, all eyes will be on the New England city as developments in this year’s admissions policies continue to unfold.