"Students for Fair Admissions Inc V. Harvard"-End Affirmative Action + Impact on College Admissions"
Affirmative action has been a contentious and hotly debated policy in the United States for decades. This approach seeks to address historical and ongoing disparities in educational and employment opportunities, especially for underrepresented minority groups. On June 23, 2022, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the case of "Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard," effectively striking down affirmative action policies in college admissions. This essay delves into the Supreme Court's decision, the arguments for and against affirmative action, and the wide-ranging consequences it has for the landscape of US college admissions.
What Is Affirmative Action In The United States?
"In the United States, affirmative action consists of government-mandated, government-approved, and voluntary private programs granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities and women. These programs tend to focus on access to education and employment in order to redress the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Another goal of affirmative action policies is to ensure that public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.
U.S. president John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which required government contractors to take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin" but affirmative action eventually evolved into a complex system of group preferences which would face many legal challenges." - WIKIPEDIA Source
Affirmative Action (Diversity & Inclusion) At Harvard University
Harvard University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the United States, has a long history of implementing affirmative action policies in its admissions process. For decades, Harvard has actively sought to increase the diversity of its student body by considering race as one of several factors in admissions decisions. This practice aimed to rectify historical and ongoing disparities in educational opportunities and to provide underrepresented minority groups with access to the benefits of a Harvard education. Harvard's affirmative action policies have been at the center of legal challenges, including the aforementioned "Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard" case, which ultimately led to the Supreme Court's 2022 decision to strike down the university's policy. Throughout its history, Harvard has defended its affirmative action practices as essential for fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment, while critics have argued that such policies amount to reverse discrimination and undermine the principle of meritocracy. The outcome of the legal battle over Harvard's affirmative action practices underscores the complex and controversial nature of these policies in the realm of higher education.
The Supreme Court Decision
In June 2022, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in the case of "Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard," with profound implications for affirmative action in college admissions. The case centered on Harvard University's affirmative action policy, which the plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), argued discriminated against Asian American applicants. The decision, which effectively struck down Harvard's affirmative action policy, stated that universities could not use race as a determining factor in their admissions processes. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, declared that "racial classifications and preferences in university admissions are constitutional only in the most exceptional circumstances" and that Harvard's policy did not meet this standard.
This ruling marked a significant departure from the principles established in the landmark 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, which allowed universities to consider race as one of several factors in admissions. The Court's decision in the Harvard case has left many colleges and universities uncertain about the legality of their existing affirmative action policies and the extent to which they can consider race in their admissions processes.
The Arguments for Affirmative Action
Affirmative action policies have been implemented in the United States with the intention of addressing historical and ongoing disparities in educational and employment opportunities. Proponents of affirmative action argue that these policies are essential for achieving diversity and ensuring that underrepresented minority groups have access to higher education and career opportunities. Here are the primary arguments in favor of affirmative action:
Promoting Diversity: One of the central arguments in favor of affirmative action is that it promotes diversity on college campuses. A diverse student body is believed to provide educational benefits, including exposure to different perspectives and experiences, which can enhance the learning environment and prepare students for a multicultural society and workforce.
Addressing Historical Discrimination: Advocates of affirmative action assert that it is necessary to rectify historical injustices and systemic discrimination against certain minority groups, particularly African Americans and Native Americans. They argue that affirmative action helps level the playing field by giving historically disadvantaged individuals a chance to access higher education and better opportunities.
Ensuring Equal Opportunity: Affirmative action is seen as a means to ensure equal opportunity and to mitigate the effects of societal bias and discrimination. By considering race or ethnicity as one of many factors in admissions decisions, universities aim to create a fairer and more inclusive admissions process.
Upholding Educational Excellence: Supporters argue that affirmative action policies contribute to the overall excellence of American universities by enabling them to attract talented students from diverse backgrounds. In this view, diversity enhances academic innovation and fosters an inclusive and equitable learning environment.
The Arguments Against Affirmative Action
Opponents of affirmative action argue that such policies are inherently discriminatory, undermine meritocracy, and fail to address the root causes of disparities in educational and employment opportunities. They contend that individuals should be admitted to colleges and universities based solely on their qualifications, without regard to their race or ethnicity. Here are the primary arguments against affirmative action:
Reverse Discrimination: Critics of affirmative action contend that it amounts to reverse discrimination, as it may result in qualified white or Asian American applicants being denied admission in favor of less-qualified candidates from underrepresented minority groups. They argue that this is unfair and contrary to the principle of equal treatment under the law.
Meritocracy and Fairness: Opponents argue that affirmative action policies compromise the principles of meritocracy and fairness. They believe that admission to colleges and universities should be based on academic achievement, standardized test scores, and other objective criteria, rather than on an applicant's race or ethnicity.
Stigmatization: Some critics suggest that affirmative action can lead to stigmatization, as it implies that minority students require preferential treatment to succeed. This, they argue, can create feelings of inadequacy and insecurity among minority students.
Inadequate Remediation: Some argue that affirmative action policies do not address the root causes of disparities in educational and employment opportunities. Instead, they maintain that the focus should be on improving primary and secondary education and addressing socioeconomic disparities.
Impact on US College Admissions Going Forward
The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Harvard's affirmative action policy has introduced significant uncertainty and consequences for college admissions in the United States. Understanding these impacts is essential to appreciating the full scope of this decision.
Legal Uncertainty: The decision has left colleges and universities uncertain about the legality of their existing affirmative action policies. This ambiguity may lead to a patchwork of policies across institutions, as some may continue to consider race in admissions while others avoid it to minimize legal risks. As a result, it is likely that colleges and universities will need to revise their admission criteria and policies to adapt to the changing legal landscape.
Potential Reduction in Diversity: Without affirmative action policies, colleges and universities may face challenges in achieving and maintaining diversity in their student bodies. This could have a negative impact on the educational experience and the preparation of students for a diverse society and workforce. Educational institutions will need to consider alternative methods for achieving diversity, such as socioeconomic-based admissions or other factors related to disadvantage.
Challenges for Underrepresented Minority Groups: The elimination of affirmative action may disproportionately affect underrepresented minority groups, making it harder for them to gain access to higher education and the opportunities it provides. This could exacerbate existing disparities in educational attainment and employment opportunities.
Evolving Admissions Criteria: Colleges and universities may need to revise their admissions criteria to consider other factors, such as socioeconomic background, geographic location, or other indicators of disadvantage. These alternative criteria will be crucial for institutions looking to maintain diversity while adhering to the law.
Potential for Increased Litigation: The Supreme Court's decision could lead to a surge in litigation regarding admissions policies. Colleges and universities that maintain affirmative action policies could face legal challenges, and these cases may serve to further shape the legal landscape for college admissions.
Pressure for Legislative Action: The Supreme Court's decision could lead to renewed debates and legislative efforts to address issues of diversity and access in higher education. State legislatures or the federal government may consider legislation to either prohibit or explicitly permit affirmative action in college admissions, depending on their political and ideological orientations.
The Supreme Court's decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions has ignited a passionate debate in the United States about the principles of diversity, fairness, and equal opportunity. While the decision represents a significant shift in the Court's stance on affirmative action, it does not eliminate the need for addressing ongoing disparities in educational and employment opportunities. The arguments for and against affirmative action remain deeply rooted in the American psyche, and the future of college admissions policies will continue to be a subject of discussion, legislative action, and legal challenges.
The challenge lies in finding a balance that promotes both diversity and fairness in American higher education, while respecting the constitutional rights of all.
by Val Misra, MR. MBA®
Founder & Managing Consultant
MR. MBA®, USA 501c3 NonProfit- We Help Students Get Into The Top Schools (College / MBA / Masters) & Careers.
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