On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for one of the most highly anticipated cases: Fisher v. University of Texas, the affirmative action case in which fourteen universities, with the Ivy League and MIT being among them, filed an amicus curiae brief defending the right of a university to consider the race of an applicant.
Back in 2008, Caucasian plaintiff Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas. She filed suit alleging that the university had discriminated them on the basis of race, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as she was in the top 12 percent of her class with a 3.5 GPA and a SAT score of 1180. The lower courts upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action in a 9-7 ruling, as it met the standard of the decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.
In September 2011, lawyers representing Fisher filed a petition for the Supreme Court, and the case was to begin in October. On October 10, the prosecution argued that the University of Texas had not demonstrated the necessity of using race as a factor. The Supreme Court Justices, noted to be conservative-leaning by the New York Times, questioned affirmative action. Justice Alito asked if minorities from privileged backgrounds would deserve preference and also asked when a university knows when it reaches its “critical mass” for diversity (quotas are not allowed by the court).
However, affirmative action has been vital in helping minorities gain an equal playing field. The goal of the admissions office is to provide a diversity of students from different backgrounds who will contribute the totality of the learning environment said Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions at MIT. In fact, none of the judges themselves opposed diversity in education.
With college admissions becoming more competitive and the possible impact of college admissions if affirmative actions are overturned, high school students represent conflicting sides to the future decision.
“All it’s doing is perpetuating ethnic differences and goes against the arguments of equality in favor of ending racism. People should earn college out of their own merit, not because of the color of their skin,” said Tom Collins, Loyola High School junior.
“I think that overall it’s a good idea. There are certainly environmental disparities in how kids are raised and what opportunities they have. Affirmative action resolves most of these issues,” said Loyola senior Justin Fang.