How much weight do universities give to race when considering applications for admission? Is it justifiable to accept students who don’t otherwise meet the requirements just because of the color of their skin? Affirmative action was supposed to level the playing field by preventing people of color from being excluded on the basis of race, but to white and Asian students who are held to a higher standard – or passed over entirely to keep the diversity ratio in the approved range – it’s just as bad. The Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) is a group of about 23,000 students calling for the end of what they consider a racist policy in admitting new undergraduates. They’ve been battling the issue in court and are hoping to make it to the Supreme Court.
Edward Blum, legal strategist for SFFA, argues that the current policies are putting whites and Asians at a disadvantage. In a case against the University of North Carolina in November, he said that the admissions policy “cynically focuses on diversity at the most superficial level,” that it “gives substantial preferences” to minorities, and that it “uses race in a mechanical, formulaic way.” Blum said in an interview:
“The easiest part of my job as president of Students for Fair Admissions is to convince the majority Americans that the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions is unfair.”
It seems, at least according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, that the majority of Americans are of the same mind. According to the study, “most Americans (73%) say colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions.” Furthermore, “Just 7% say race should be a major factor in college admissions, while 19% say it should be a minor factor.”
If most people truly believe accepting students based on their color instead of their academic records is wrong, then why is SFFA and others having such a difficult time trying to fight against affirmative action? One suggestion to alleviate this problem is to have educational institutes remove the student’s name, race, and ethnicity from the application. Removing one’s gender might also be helpful so that when the powers that be are looking at a student-hopeful, they will not be influenced by a high-powered name, the gender (even if that happens to be “X”), or race.
Civil rights groups, however, see this attempt as an insult and attack against minorities, and colleges and have called it “an all-out assault on affirmative action.” David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, said, “SFFA’s chief goal – I mean, it’s obvious – they want to eliminate the consideration of race all together.” Wouldn’t that be the goal from the left, to consider a person on their merits and not their race? When something is based on race, then it should be considered racist, right? To enroll a black person because of their skin color – isn’t that racist? How is that better than refusing acceptance to white or Asian students so that someone with a different ethnicity or race can take their place, even if that person had worked hard and earned the opportunity?
Hinojosa continued: “They know what the Supreme Court precedent says – yes, you can consider race by meeting the strict scrutiny standards – but they’re just seeking an activist U.S. Supreme Court that will revisit this and reverse the precedent that we have had for the last 40-plus years.”
In 2008, Blum went to the Supreme Court to fight for Abigail Fisher, a white female applicant for the University of Texas who was denied entry because of her race. Unfortunately, the lawsuit did not work out and Blum has been finding other avenues and strategies to fight against affirmative action. For one thing, no longer is he relying on a specific student or students to testify before the court. Doing this allows for the lawsuit to remain timeless and he doesn’t have to prove specific harm to a specific student. It also protects the students, he said:
“In a world in which social media can cancel the life prospects of a student, it is unwise to bring a lawsuit like this with a group of young people whose social reputation and physical safety may be in jeopardy if their identities are revealed. Harvard understood it, UNC understood it, the judges in those two cases understood it. And I think every parent who has a 17-or 19-year-old kid applying to college who would endeavor to do something like this would be gravely afraid for their child’s identity to be made public.”
Currently, Blum’s group is suing the University of Texas, Harvard, and Yale.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.