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The End of Affirmative Action?

Whether or not the policies are here to stay? That’s yet to be determined, so stay tuned.

Elizabeth Hoyt

October 01, 2013

The End of Affirmative Action?
In hopes of achieving diversity standards, many colleges utilize race-conscious admissions programs. But, questions about the legality of such programs recently rose as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The ruling vacated a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that originally upheld the race-conscious admissions policy.

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So, what does this mean for the future of race-conscious admissions programs and affirmative action? It’s a gray area, apparently. According to federal officials, colleges may still lawfully consider race.

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The gray area? They may consider race only as long as the program is tailored to achieve campus diversity standards.
Within the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower court failed to meet strict-scrutiny standards when reviewing the University of Texas at Austin’s policy of race consideration in admissions.

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Colleges, as a result of the ruling, are likely to be held to the highest of standards when using race-conscious admissions policies. However, it’s unclear who defines whether or not the program is tailored to achieve diversity standards. Currently, it’s up to the college to review its own policies. Critics of the policies suggest that colleges must exhaust all race-neutral alternatives before considering race within admissions. But they don’t have to. A document released in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights states that “an institution may deem unworkable a race-neutral alternative that would be ineffective or would require it to sacrifice another component of its educational mission.” According to Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the recent ruling hasn't changing any legal precedents. Samuels concluded that the ruling “requires that universities go about this business with care, but it can be done.” Colleges do, however, have to define the benefits of diversity and Samuels suggested that colleges keep records of any race-neutral alternatives they've considered, utilized or failed to utilize, with reasoning as to the decision-making process. That way, colleges’ decision will be safeguarded by evidence that they've complied with the current policies. Whether or not the policies are here to stay? That’s yet to be determined, so stay tuned.

What's your take on current race-conscious admissions policies? (Please be respectful in any commentary!)

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