In The 'Cac Opinion

‘Cac Supports UT With Amicus Brief

Did you think contentious discussions of race and entitlements would come to an end when election season wrapped up and Bill O’Reilly retreated to his private slice of the “white establishment?” Think again. Ever since oral arguments began in October, the nine gown-clad members of the Supreme Court have been considering the legality of affirmative action in Fisher vs. University of Texas. Petitioner Abigail Fisher contends that she was denied admission to UT Austin because of her race (white), and now her lawyers are trying to remove race as a factor in college and university admissions—and recoup her $100 admissions fee as damages.

With a decision expected no later than June, students around the ‘Cac are starting to pay attention; MiddBlog reports on a student panel to discuss the issue, including the college’s role in filing an amicus brief in support of UT and the right to consider race in one’s admissions profile. In a major show of solidarity, every school in the ‘Cac—along with 26 other small institutions similarly “besieged with applications” (the brief’s way of saying “highly selective”)—signed the argument, which articulates a fiery defense of the use of affirmative action in admissions.

Even now that we are all safely beyond the admissions process at our respective schools, it is not uncommon to hear grumblings about race and admissions; “Ugh, they wouldn’t have gotten in without affirmative action,” etc. But to do away with affirmative action in admissions would completely decimate the varied, multicultural, multi-experienced student body that each school in the ‘Cac benefits from. This is the real point of affirmative action, articulated beautifully in the amicus brief: “To assemble the most interesting class of students, ready to learn from one another and from the college’s faculty, and likely then to spread the benefits of the resources they have been privileged to receive.” Race-conscious admissions allows selective schools to cast a wide net and reach out to traditionally under-represented segments of society, which the schools in the brief believe is both educationally sound and socially defensible—a sentiment I think any student in the ‘Cac would agree with.

 Fisher’s argument goes that because, on average, minorities tend to have lower average ACT scores than white students, this makes them less deserving of admission to selective schools. Socio-economic-based affirmative action is touted as the best, most fair alternative to race-consideration in admissions, but the resulting student bodies simply would not be as diverse and academically excellent as the student bodies in the ‘Cac are known for.I’m not sure anyone would truly like to see the Williams class of 2018 selected from a pool of minority applicants half the current size—with a shoddier academic record, to boot—but, as Williams concluded, this would be the result of race-neutral affirmative action criteria based solely on socio-economic disadvantage.

There is no “easy way” to get into the ‘Cac, and if you remove race as a factor in admission what comes next? Should I, as a non-athlete and non-legacy, sue [insert school here] because I was denied admission? Of course not. UT Austin might be a different story, but most applicants to schools in the ‘Cac understand that the process is sort of like a game at best and a crapshoot at worst. There are numerous other reasons why it is simply unfeasible to leave race out of admissions, but at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that the post-1960s admissions considerations have made our schools more desirable, more stimulating, and more effective. These factors drew us to our respective schools in the first place, and it would be devastating to see them weakened by a bitter petitioner and a conservative court.

Fun fact: not a single current Supreme Court justice received their undergraduate education in the ‘Cac, or at any liberal arts school for that matter. I’m calling BS if Kennedy sides with the conservatives on this one.

Related 'Cac