Affirmative action on the line with U.S. Supreme Court (includes video story)

The U.S Supreme Court recently heard arguments involving affirmative action at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. 

Both universities are defending their race-conscious admissions process against opponents who argue affirmative action is discriminatory. During hearings, the 6-3 conservative majority signaled it might be ready to overturn decades of precedent.  

Currently, nine states, including Florida, ban public universities from factoring in race when assessing applicants. California banned affirmative action in 1996, and students from The New York Times show minority enrollment dropped significantly, from 7% to 3.43% after the proposition was adopted.  

The conservative group “Students for Fair Admission” say that Harvard discriminates against Asian American students to make room for Hispanic and Black students.  

“We’re trying to eliminate race-based discrimination here,” said Kenny Xu, a board member for Student for Fair Admissions. “No one should be surprised that we’re trying to make it a more color-blind country where race is less of a factor in our country and admissions, promotions, and hiring.” 

Two former clerks of Justice Clarence Thomas—a longtime critic of affirmative action—represent the group.  

More than 6 in 10 Americans support a ban on the consideration of race in admissions, according to a Washington Post-Schar Poll. But an equally strong majority also endorse programs that support racial diversity on campus. 

Eric Feldman, the Associate Director of Student Success & Academic Programs at FIU, spoke on the importance of diversity on campuses.  

My job before this one was with our Office of Global Learning initiatives, which the entire philosophy of was not just that universities need to be diverse, but that—that’s not enough, that the activities and programs and internships in clubs and classes need to utilize that diversity by making sure they’re structured so that the different viewpoints and lived experiences that students have, are able to be discussed and shared. And you know, that can’t happen if different groups are not being accepted into college.” 

Meanwhile, Critics accused UNC of giving preference to students of color. However, not everyone sees it that way.  

 “I am 100% all for affirmative action,” said Marian Balceiro, an FIU Hamiliton Scholar. “I think the main reason it even exists is because there’s disparities in society.” 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the case due to her role on the Harvard Board of Overseers but was allowed to vote on the UNC case after the Supreme Court separated the two. She expressed concerns over the elimination of affirmative action.  

“I’m worried that—that creates an inequity in the system with respect to being able to express your identity and importantly, have it valued by the university when it is considering the goal of bringing in different people.” 

The Supreme Court could end any consideration of race in admissions, but a decision isn’t expected until next spring. 

Lidia Delgado is a senior pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Digital Communications and Media with a concentration in English. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in the digital journalism field.