Continue considering race in admissions

Universities should consider race during admissions to help students in need.

This fall, the Supreme Court will return to an issue it last discussed in 2003: affirmative action in university admissions. Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin involves a white student who, after being denied admission, claimed that the university’s consideration of race in the admissions process violated her civil and constitutional rights. Although the use of affirmative action does imply preferential admission of minority students in some cases, the long-term social benefits of affirmative action policies outweigh isolated individual grievances.

Fisher supporters argue that affirmative action policies lead to “reverse discrimination,” in which white applicants are rejected in favor of minority students with lower grades or test scores.

This position fails to account for the widespread structural disadvantages faced by many minority students. From inadequate schools to discrimination and financial barriers, many minority students face a range of obstacles that are often overlooked simply because they are so strongly embedded in the social structure.

Advocates of “financial affirmative action” push for color-blind consideration of economic disadvantages in university admissions, promising students from struggling families would be awarded admission and financial aid regardless of their race. This position is a reasonable way to help disadvantaged students while transcending racial categorization.

In deciding the Fisher case, the Supreme Court should take into account the far-reaching implications that race still carries in America, as well as the long-term benefits that affirmative action policies confer upon society.