Decision changes admissions status quo

supreme court

By Adanya Day

On June 5, affirmative action, a set of admission guidelines many United States colleges and universities had been following, was overturned, a move by the U.S. Supreme Court that is beginning to shake up many admissions at many universities.

Many underrepresented students fear what this will mean for the continuation of their education. The point of affirmative action is to give everyone, no matter the race, equal opportunity by allowing colleges and universities to consider the race of applicants.

In simple terms, the policy is meant to improve the acceptance in jobs and colleges for underrepresented and discriminated groups by eliminating unconstitutional discrimination.

“It is based on the premise that, absent discrimination, over time a contractor’s workforce generally will reflect the demographics of the qualified available workforce in the relevant job market,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.

You know those little sections of college and job applications that ask about gender, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability? That is a part of affirmative action, according to the Department of Labor.

It also allows schools and jobs to have a more diverse body of people. It is this set of guidelines that has been the status quo for 58 years within college admissions.

In recent years, many Americans have been questioning the fairness of affirmative action. According to the Pew Research Center only 36% of Americans see affirmative action as a good thing, 49% said considering race/ethnicity in admissions is unfair, and 82% said colleges should not consider race and ethnicity when accepting students.

The question of fairness and whether or not it is helpful for the underrepresented groups it’s meant for has caused heated disputes of whether it should be applicable when it comes to admissions.

How do Americans view affirmative action? Information obtained from the Pew Research Center

What are the facts of the case

The question of if affirmative action is constitutional was brought up by the Students for Fair Admissions against both Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill. Both colleges have a highly selective admissions process. In addition to taking into account extracurriculars, high school transcripts, letters of recommendations, both schools also took race into account.

Professor Elizabeth Kusko, a criminal justice and political science professor at William Peace University, said the lawsuit and eventual overturn was started by Asian Americans, who claimed they were being harmed when it came to affirmative action.

“What changed was overtime at places like Harvard and UNC…a minority population, specifically Asian Americans, who are a minority in America, affirmative action was meant to help them as well,” says Kusko, “but what started to happen was they started to be harm by a policy that was supposed to help them.”

The Supreme Court Syllabus, which is a document that breaks down the decision of a case, highlights the question of if the Harvard and UNC admissions acceptance systems they use are lawful under the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment.

This clause, according to Congress, means there is no permitting any distinctions on the basis of race. The affirmative action policy directly opposes this notion.

Most colleges and universities, especially nowadays, will accept students on the basis of race in order to create a more inclusive and inviting environment for students.

Now say we have two applicants of different racial or ethnic backgrounds applying for the same college. One has a multitude of extracurriculars and good test scores, while the other has lower test scores or lacks extracurriculars.

Objectively, the college should choose the first applicant right? But the college chooses the second applicant because they have too many students of the first applicant’s race, and want to have more of the second applicant’s race, despite that applicant being less qualified. The lawsuit claimed that this is unfair and goes against the Equal Protection Clause.

Just as the students at UNC and Harvard saw affirmative action as unfair and unconstitutional, Madeline Bevens, a junior at William Peace University and political science major, shared the same sentiment.

“While affirmative action was put into place with the right intentions, it objectively created another governmental institution in which racial bias could flourish,” says Bevens, “While it is not the type of racial bias that gets the media’s attention, it is still at face racial bias, because it forces college admissions to look at an applicant’s race and weigh that fact heavier against their scholastic achievements.”

As this new precedent becomes more and more apparent we must now look to the future on how college applications and admissions will forever change.

What it means for future admissions

Photo by Adanya Day of William Peace University Admissions Office

Tori LeFevre, an admissions advisor, believes this overturn of the status quo means little to no change for Peace.

“The only difference we have seen is on our side of things we no longer can see the race of students,” says LeFevre, “but so far we haven’t seen a change in the quantity of applicants.”

LeFevre believes that Peace may not experience a large impact compared to the larger Ivy league school such as the ones in the lawsuit. For any prospective students wanting to apply to Peace, LeFevre assures that should this become a concern of prospective students, Peace will have resources for them all they would have to do is reach out.

Kusko believes that the precedent set by this decision will have unforeseen repercussions when it comes to future lawsuits critiquing the college application process.

“It’s kind of gray right now,” said Kusko. “So now colleges and universities can’t use it [affirmative action] the same way they were, but can I still ask an applicant to address how race has affected them within their college application essay. I wonder if the next lawsuit will say that college admissions can’t even ask that.”

As this is still a recent development, we may not see many changes to college admissions immediately. But in the coming months the admissions process for colleges will change forever and will make the already daunting task of applying for college even more daunting.