Court must value campus diversity

Daily Editorial Board

For the second time in seven years, the Supreme Court is considering a case that questions an affirmative action plan at the University of Texas at Austin.
 
The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, is a white student who says that, in 2008, the Texas institution denied her admission because of her race. 
 
The university considers race in a holistic process it uses to admit one-quarter of its first-year class. For the remaining seats, the school grants automatic admission to state residents in the top tenth of their high school class.
 
In 2013, the Supreme Court voted 7-to-1 to return the case to an appeals court. As they consider the case for a second time, justices are still trying to gauge the impact of race-conscious application policies. 
 
“What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during oral arguments last week.
 
The suggestion here is that we should ask what minorities can offer the rest of the student body. What Roberts fails to assume is that their presence is imperative.
 
Having a black student in lab doesn’t mean a classroom gains new perspectives on Erlenmeyer flasks. But it does mean other students of color will feel welcome and less isolated as they navigate predominantly white campuses.
 
Providing access to higher education is the first step in taking diversity from a buzzword to a reality. This may guarantee students from a wide variety of ethnicities, sexual identities and socio-economic backgrounds are able to call college home.