By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Senior National
The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in conjunction with the African American Policy Forum, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and other civil rights groups, mobilize before the Supreme Court of the United States to support affirmative action.
Activists demand that there remains a need for colleges and universities to consider race as one factor in the holistic admissions process.
“What’s happening on college campuses today is that applicants are being treated differently because of their race and ethnicity,” said Edward Blum, a legal activist.
He founded Students for Fair Admissions and is against affirmative action.
“Some get a boost. Some get a boost,” Blum said.
However, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina have responded to the need for a demographically diverse student body.
Universities asserted that admissions committees should not ignore an applicant’s race “nor should they ignore an applicant’s state of origin, national origin, family background, or particular accomplishments.”
According to NPR, “because UNC is a public school, the question is whether its affirmative action program violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the law.”
And even though Harvard is a private institution, it is still covered by federal anti-discrimination laws because it accepts federal funds for various programs.
Ultimately, NPR noted, at the heart of both cases is the same principle: what constitutes racial discrimination?
Additionally, NPR reported that this holistic approach to college admissions “is used by many colleges large and small, including US military academies.”
Among the many academic institutions that have filed briefs supporting affirmative action are 57 Catholic colleges and universities, including Notre Dame, Georgetown and Holy Cross. And there are more briefs filed by 68 of the nation’s largest companies and a brief filed by a long list of retired three- and four-star generals and admirals attesting to the need for racial diversity in the upper echelons of the army. For example, the lack of racial diversity in the officer corps during the Vietnam War led to enormous tension and even violence between the predominantly white officer corps and the predominantly black and Hispanic enlisted men, sometimes undermining the ‘war effort.
Many anticipate that the politically compromised Supreme Court justices, who made the controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this year will overturn some or all of the precedents in the affirmative action case.
“The foundation for authorized affirmative action programs in higher education was established in 1978,” NPR reported.
“Citing Harvard University as a model, Judge Lewis Powell said that in evaluating applicants for admission, race could not be the determining factor, but the university could use race as one many factors, just as she uses other traits – special talents in music, science or athletics, and even whether the applicant’s parents attended college.
Judge Powell pointed out that “in choosing from thousands of academically qualified applicants”, a university’s admissions committee may “with a number of criteria in mind”, give “some consideration to the distribution that should be made among many types and categories of students”.