College Diversity, The End

The focus on ensuring (and protecting) diversity in admission and college campuses may soon be over, according to a new article. As Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times:

[Lawyers for Abigail Fisher, a white student who argues she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of her race] filed a petition seeking a Supreme Court review last month, and legal experts say the justices will probably agree to hear it, setting the stage for a decision by June. Such a decision, given changes in the membership of the court since 2003, is likely to cut back on if not eliminate the use of race in admissions decisions at public colleges and universities.

Diversity is the last man standing, the sole remaining legal justification for racial preferences in deciding who can study at public universities. Should the Supreme Court disavow it, the student body at the University of Texas and many other public colleges and universities would almost instantly become whiter and more Asian, and less black and Hispanic.

The Supreme Court is likely to undermine the use of race in admissions decisions, given the political breakdown of the current court. According to Liptak, this sort of decision would have implications for “private hiring and promotion.”

This doesn’t mean that we’ve actually fixed racial discrimination, of course. It just means that we’ve tried Affirmative Action and, well, the results are unclear.

While there’s undoubtedly evidence that some level of diversity improves the quality of education, the intellectual benefits of diversity don’t really have all that much do specifically with efforts to have, say, the racial diversity of a state’s flagship university mirror that of the state itself (as is the case in admissions at the University of Texas currently).

According to Liptak “the very murkiness of the diversity rationale, dissenting appellate judges in Ms. Fisher’s case wrote, exists uneasily in a legal system that aspires to analytical rigor policed by judicial scrutiny.”

And that’s likely to be the problem with continuing racial preferences in admission. Sure, diversity is important, but what sort of diversity would be most effective? Most effective to produce what outcomes?

It’s questions like these that make the future of Affirmative Action so problematic.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer