Should your ethnicity determine whether or not you are accepted into college?

Of course not, but once upon a time it was. Half a century ago, it certainly made a difference in which schools and universities you could attend. After what was morally obvious was rightfully struck down on legal grounds, discussion then turned to how to fix the problem that remained. The "shackled man" theory holds that if two people are running a race, and one has shackles on their feet, taking the shackles off their feet 100 yards into the race does not suddenly make it fair. They deserve to make up for that lost ground.

Absolutely true. But what about the grandchild of the racer who was once shackled, whose feet were never bound? Do they still deserve to start ahead of others? In 2012's Science Left Behind I discussed a lingering problem in higher education this century; school admissions policies had created a secret sauce to pick winners and losers among certain minorities. It had become such common knowledge that Asian kids with an American-sounding last name were told to check Caucasian on the admissions box. If they didn't deny their heritage, it would be held against them.

Statistics showed it was not paranoia. In admissions scores, blacks could have the lowest, whites could be around the mean, while Asian kids had to score much higher to compete. (1)

Affirmative Action had become a real negative, it was being used punitively long after it was necessary. 'We still need it', schools said, in the interests of progressive diversity, generations after anyone was penalized for race.  The actual statistics showed that to be untrue. In states that stopped using race, diversity did not go down, just discrimination did.

By 2012, Fisher v. University of Texas threatened to overthrow race-based decision-making in college admissions. Abigail Fisher, a white woman, was 'on the bubble' regarding admission to the University of Texas at Austin, which regards itself as a very progressive school in a progressive city. In 2008, she didn't score high enough to be automatically accepted. And she was not accepted. She believed less-qualified people were chosen for admission while she settled for Louisiana State University - because she was white. It was clearly up to the Supreme Court to settle it, but but before the lower court invoked derision for using terms like "holistic diversity" as the reason why progressives in Austin should penalize students for their skin color. 

Now, with a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the University of Texas program is lawful under the 14th Amendment - the equal protection under the law verbiage that says discrimination is illegal. This time they upheld that admissions standards at UT-Austin serve a compelling government interest; educational diversity, but then say that is only if a university can demonstrate that other efforts to achieve campus diversity have failed. Whatever that means. 

It seems like waffling, especially strange after the 2013 ruling was 7-1 against the school, and just means that race-based admissions will be tested in court even more. And it's odd timing, since the 14th Amendment was approved by Congress 150 years ago this month.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the minority noted, "Even though UT has never provided any coherent explanation for its asserted need to discriminate on the basis of race, and even though UT's position relies on a series of unsupported and noxious racial assumptions ... the majority concludes that UT has met its heavy burden. This conclusion is remarkable—and remarkably wrong."

Anyone with some common sense can see that institutionalized discrimination is not "affirmative" and using skin color to impede or improve the chances for student admission is not promoting diversity. It is the antithesis of it.


(1) In the analysis, an Asian student needed a 1550 SAT score to have the same chance of getting into a school as a black student with a score of 1100. Whites only needed 1400.