FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 05, 2023
Supreme Court decides soon on college entry policies, an issue also affecting selective high schools
Share two facts from another article about education.
Summarize coverage of a different legal case or issue.
Look for a story or photo that reflects racial diversity. What's the topic?
The U.S. Supreme Court will deliver a decision this month – maybe this week – on the future of affirmative action in higher education. If a widespread expectation is right, racial preferences in admission will be banned. Affirmative action backers hope the court leaves things as they are, letting colleges consider race within certain bounds. A rollback could erase decades of progress on campus diversity, they say. Opponents want a sweeping decision that would remove race from the selection process as a matter of fairness and a remedy for what they call "reverse discrimination."
The upcoming decision involves a pair of lawsuits claiming that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina discriminate against Asian Americans by favoring other minority applicants. Lower courts upheld admission systems at both schools, and an appeal by a Virginia-based group called Students for Fair Admissions put the issue before the nine justices in Washington, D.C. The group says race should play no part in decisions about who can enroll in colleges or specialized public high schools.
A separate case involving a prestigious school in Alexandria, Va., also could reach the top court. A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 last month that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology doesn't discriminate against Asian Americans in its entrance decisions. In 2020, after nationwide protests over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it replaced an admissions exam with an essay and began accepting teens from a cross-section of public middle schools -- with preference given to poorer students and those learning English. The court ruling in late May said the school has a legitimate interest in "expanding the array of student backgrounds." A lower-court judge last year found that the changes disproportionately burdened Asian Americans. A Supreme Court appeal is likely.
Nine states have banned affirmative action at the college level since 1996, when California did so. After Oklahoma outlawed the practice in 2012, the state's flagship university saw "no long-term severe decline" in minority enrollments, the state's attorney general told the Supreme Court. A recent freshman class at the University of Oklahoma had more Hispanic, Asian and Native American students than in 2012, though the share of Black students fell. At Amherst College in Massachusetts, officials estimate that going entirely race-neutral would reduce Black, Hispanic and Indigenous populations by half. "We fully expect it would be a significant decrease," says Admissions Director Matthew McGann.
College official says: "We need to make sure we're sending the message that we’re committed to diversity, independent of what the court does." -- Doug Christiansen, dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University in Nashville
School district lawyer says: "We firmly believe this admission plan [at Jefferson High] is fair and gives qualified applicants at every middle school a fair chance of a seat." – John Foster, attorney Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia
Columnist says: "In what sane world do we sort people — often for life — based on their ability to be teacher-pleasers from age 15 to 18?" – David Brooks, The New York Times
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