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Should colleges go colorblind?

The Supreme Court revisits affirmative action

By Kate Peifer
On March 7, 2012

UP is among many universities and colleges across the U.S. waiting for a decision by the Supreme Court on the use of affirmative action in college admissions.

Affirmative action, the policy to consider race and ethnicity in a university's admission decision, is being revisited after Abigail Noel Fisher filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas, claiming she was denied admission because she was white.

Texas students in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes are guaranteed acceptance into a public university within the state with no regard to race or ethnicity. Fisher, just having missed the mark for the top 10 percent, was placed in a separate group of applicants where race was considered, and she was ultimately denied acceptance.

"What's interesting is that Fisher is not claiming the affirmative action policy is unconstitutional because it uses quotas or fails to assess applications in an individualized way, but because the racially neutral top 10 percent law already achieves racial diversity," Political Science Professor William Curtis said. "Indeed, that's why the law was enacted."

According to Curtis, Fisher argues that there is no need for an affirmative action policy since racial diversity is already achieved at the University of Texas through the top 10 percent rule.

According to The New York Times, the repercussions of a Supreme Court decision to prohibit admissions officers from considering ethnic and racial factors would likely reduce in the number of African Americans and Latinos in universities.

Most universities, including UP, consider race and ethnicity in the complex admissions process along with other factors such as gender, academics, leadership, special skills and geographic location.

"I have no doubt that UP considers the whole person in the admissions process to create a diverse student body," Executive Assistant to the President Danielle Hermanny said.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, UP's student population is 72 percent white and 28 percent minority, not including international students.

"I understand where people are coming from when they don't want to give privileges based on race, but if the University likes greater diversity, I think it's fine," President of Hawai'i Club Ian Fukuda said. "Hawai'i is pretty well represented. This freshman class had the most Hawaiians with around 80 students in the class."

UP's application asks applicants to identify his or her race and ethnicity without the option to withhold the information.

"The image that people see from a diverse campus is that of a good college, one that allows students to interact with other cultures," Fukuda said.

Marshawna Williams, president of the Black Student Union, believes UP could do a better job at recruiting African American and Latino students.

"We have so many Pacific Islanders at UP because admissions activities goes and visits these states to get more students," Williams said. "Imagine if they did that for blacks and Latinos."

Currently, no quotas or point systems are allowed in admissions, due to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling stating universities could not accept students based on race to meet a specific percentage but could laxly consider the factor in the process to increase diversity.

"The takeaway seems to be that universities can take race into account in admissions as long as they keep how they do it fuzzy," Curtis said.

However, the pending case could prohibit universities from taking race and ethnicity into account at all. The case is scheduled to be heard before the presidential election in November.

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