We have previously discussed how schools have rejected students with substantially higher scores for college admissions to allow the admission of African-American and hispanic students. Some academics, myself included, have raised concerns about the significant differences in academic scores — a difference that is particularly great with regard to Asian Americans. For that reason, I share the concern that this constitutes a form of discrimination based on race. While there remains a permissible range in which schools can select students to achieve a diverse and pluralistic student body, the differential of admissions scores can be alarming in some cases and suggest that students are being rejected simply because of their race.
I have previously discussed how schools have largely circumvented prior rulings against affirmative action programs. While many defend race-conscious admissions in terms of the need for affirmative action to correct historic discrimination, the Supreme Court barred such affirmative action in 1978 in Bakke. Justice Lewis Powell allowed for only a limited use of race for the purpose of achieving “diversity” in classes. Notably, in Bakke, the Medical School at the University of California at Davis had a more modest program over all by setting aside 16 of the 100 seats for “Blacks,” “Chicanos,” “Asians,” and “American Indians.” Those slots were justified as a matter of diversity, but found unconstitutional by the Court. However, the Court was deeply fractured. Five justices Powell and the plurality found that Bakke had to be admitted and that the weight given race was unconstitutional.
The exception however soon swallowed the rule as schools fought to maintain levels of minority students as a diversity rather than an affirmative action program. Many academics privately admit that the real purpose of these programs remains the original affirmative action rationale to ensure greater numbers of minorities in higher education.
The fact that the case continues to be referred to as the “affirmative action case” shows how little has changed since Bakke when the Court supposedly closed the door on affirmative action in admissions. By allowing race to still be used for diversity, educators sought to achieve the same numerical goals as a matter of diversity and achieving a racial “critical mass.”
In the most recent case, more than 60 Chinese, Indian, Korean and Pakistani groups filed a complaint with the civil rights offices at the justice and education departments. The Obama Administration is viewed as disinclined to pursue such claims and to support the use of race as part of a “critical mass” approach to admissions.
Robert Iuliano, Harvard University General Counsel, insisted that the university uses a “holistic admissions process” that is “fully compliant with federal law” to build a diverse class. That “holistic” approach is permissible but it can also hide the same type of affirmative action approach that the Court rejected. It comes down to the numbers and the record, which may only be made fully apparent with an investigation or litigation or both.
Source: USA Today