An uncertain pathway to higher education
With the recent trial between SFFA vs. Harvard and SFFA vs. UNC, the United States Supreme Court decided to end the term of affirmative action( A.A.) in the college admissions process. With the end of this long-standing policy, many college applicants fear being denied admission to certain schools based on their skin color or ethnicity. There have been mixed reactions to the disqualification of this policy, with some questioning whether this move was racial-based or if schools are looking for scapegoats if the statistics of certain ethnic groups decline in the future.
The uproar over this policy began in 1978 with the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. At the time the Supreme Court struck down remedial plans based solely on race or ethnic origins without proof of discrimination. By 2013, the divisive issue had reimagined itself when Edward Blum created the Students For Fair Admissions group, an anti-affirmative action organization. “The easiest part of my job as president of Students For Fair Admissions is to convince the majority of Americans that the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions is unfair,” Blum said in an interview, noting a 2019 Pew Research survey on college admissions that found 73 percent of Americans, “say colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions.”
Over the next decade, Blum fought for White and Asian students as he viewed the admissions process as discriminative against them. “You cannot cure racial discrimination that occurred in the past with new discrimination today,” Blum said. “Race and ethnicity have no place in American life and law.”
Blum continued his attack on affirmative action by gathering the support of Asian students at Harvard University, which was the winning formula that led to the Supreme Court dismissing the policy. “Put simply, Harvard openly considers race in admissions to promote diversity, but it categorically denies using race to advantage White applicants vis-à-vis Asian American applicants, and there was no evidence presented at trial suggesting it does so,” Blum said in his brief statement.
Affirmative action recognizes policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to include particular groups that were historically discriminated against based on their gender, race, sexuality, creed, or nationality in areas in which such groups are underrepresented- such as education and employment.
With the removal, people are asking what’s next and how other colleges and universities will respond. Well, the students aren’t waiting for the colleges to answer and are taking things into their own hands. A coalition of students from different ethnic backgrounds at Harvard University have come together to appeal the Supreme Court decision.
“Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans like myself, benefit from affirmative action,” said Sally Chen, a graduating Asian-American student at Harvard who participated in the brief, told NBC Asian America. “Every applicant has a different story to tell, and race can be a part of that story. Students deserve the opportunity to be recognized for it.”
Chen understood the angle Blum was taking and wanted to assure Asians and other minorities at Harvard and worldwide that the striking down of the policy was strictly for the benefit of Blum and his goals. “We know that this lawsuit is not intended to help Asian Americans because it was the brainchild of Ed Blum, a right-wing strategist who tried and failed to kill affirmative action in the Supreme Court on behalf of a white student before setting up SFFA,” Chen said. “Blum’s mission is to slash protections for minorities in America, including Asian Americans – not to help them out.”
Chen and the coalitions advocate for diversity, and whats to remind the world that the dismissal is an attack on all students and its only a matter of time before more schools adapt to these policies. “An attack on affirmative action is an attack on racial justice, educational equity, black and brown communities, and immigrants and refugees,” Chen explained. “Cross-community solidarity in support of affirmative action is crucial to advancing the civil rights of all communities of color.”
Now, outside of the students at Harvard, other coalitions and organizations spoke out against the dismissal of A.A., such as the CEO and founder of Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS), Gary Charles, as he expressed his disappointment in the SCOTUS decision.
“Living in a society where race does not matter is aspirational but not reflective of our current reality,” as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in her dissenting position. “But deeming race irrelevant in the law does not make it so in life.” Charles said as he quoted Jackson. “It is imperative that America come to terms with the continuing significance of race and push back against any efforts that would lead to a more just society.”
ABIS is an organization that advocates for racial equity and social and economic justice for blacks in sports. Charles states that the attack on A.A. is part of a larger war for the ones in charge to rewrite historical actions they deemed wrong.
“We cannot keep fighting the same losing battle that is maintaining the racial status quo in America,” Charles said as he spoke about the importance of A.A. “Everyone should have access to an excellent education, and holistic approaches in college admissions are essential. Structural barriers have already placed historically disadvantaged groups at a disadvantage where college admissions are concerned, and the current decision will almost certainly exacerbate those issues and lead to greater inequalities on a host of social outcomes.”
One solution educators have suggested for African-American students is to look into HBCU schools as they seem like a viable option to keep black education and black money circulating within the community and not expose prospects to the hidden racism in education. “For many HBCUs like Spelman, applications have been increasing,” said Helen Gayle, president of the historically Black women’s college in Atlanta. “So we can expect that trend will probably accelerate as a result of this decision.” The total number of applicants at 35 HBCUs doubled in the last 20 years. This has caused school leaders to become concerned if they can provide the proper education for students with the immediate influx of numbers.
“In the current frame of resources that we have available to us, we could not absorb that kind of increase and continue to provide the quality of education that Morehouse guarantees its applicants unless we had a significant infusion of resources from a combination of philanthropist, corporation and the government,” said Morehouse College President David Thomas.
Morgan State President David Wilson advocates for more federal funding to be allocated to HBCUs to become “ the model of diversity in American higher education.”
The outlook for students in high school wanting to attend college is also in question. Unless the school wants them for their sports or academic capabilities, there is a chance that minority students decide against applying to their dream school or school best suited for their major. Using California as an example, they banned A.A. in 1996, and the immediate results were Black and Hispanic representation at flagship schools Berkeley and UCLA dropped.
USC President Carol Folt wants to remind people that while the ban was placed 27 years ago, USC is still a diverse place for students from all walks of life.
“This decision will not impact our commitment to creating a campus that is diverse and inclusive to talented individuals from every background. Folt said as she talked about how USC admissions pick their students. “ USC provides an outstanding learning community where differing backgrounds and points of view are embraced and celebrated. We will not go backward’s.”