By MENA MOHAMED
In October, both inside universities and outside national courts, protesters lined up for blocks to assert their views on a controversial topic that is being tested once again for its constitutionality. The signs reflected the two clashing sides of the arguments with some reading, “Promote equality with color-blind admissions” and others stating that, “Diversity works – keep minorities represented.” Affirmative action always has been contentious since its first implementation in 1961, but this year it is regaining its place in the judicial spotlight. As Stuart seniors apply for college and prepare for what’s to come after June, the Supreme Court of the United States is interpreting this American practice rooted in the idea of the benefits of a diverse student body and how far universities will go to achieve it.
Affirmative action is a policy that favors individuals who tend to face discrimination in society, specifically minority racial groups and women. Affirmative action is most commonly associated with college admissions programs and its use to grant admission to minorities has sparked dissent over the years, but it has been applauded by many as well. “It works like this,” said Career Specialist Carol Kelley, “Colleges will give people of different nationalities an advantage in the admissions process. Someone who is Hispanic or African American or from a different state will be given an advantage to increase racial and geographical diversity.”
The controversy with this specific case first began in 2008, when an amendment to the Michigan state constitution, dubbed Proposal 2, was ratified by state voters by a marginal 57 percent. According to civilrights.org, the amendment prohibited the notion of affirmative action by placing a ban on “discrimination and preferential treatment based on race, sex, national origin, or color in public universities and schools.” Although the text seemed harmless at first glance, the ratification of the proposition sparked an outcry that could be heard nationwide.
Parties such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) strongly opposed the amendment, claiming that after its ratification, racial minorities were not able to get equal opportunity for admission. On the other hand, the American Civil Rights Foundation celebrated the establishment of “true educational equality” in Michigan and the end of what they deemed reverse discrimination.
So with both sides arguing the ethics and constitutionality of the practice, the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action traveled through multiple lower courts and reached the Supreme Court with formal debate beginning in October, marking the beginning of a judicial battle that could change the admissions process for seniors all around the country.
“[Affirmative action] is both fair and unfair at the same time. It gives some people a better chance because some people have the resources they need to be set up to succeed,” said senior Raeye Tedros.
On the other hand, sophomore Shreya Galang said, “[Affirmative action] is really unfair. It does not help me no matter my grades or activities, just because of my race. That really should not be a factor in those kinds of decisions.
On diversity, the opinion at Stuart is mutual; it is an important factor in the classroom. “[Diversity] is good to have. The more you know about culture, the more you’re informed, the more you learn – just like at Stuart. You learn here without even noticing,” Tedros said. Kelley agrees, saying that “Stuart students need to take advantage of the unique diversity here while they can.”
“I think there should be preference based on socioeconomic status, not exactly race. I see a lot of students at Stuart who are in difficult positions. They have to work long hours to support themselves – I do believe that they deserve a leg up or a compliment,” Kelley said. “There’s no choice in your race. Affirmative action should be based on economic status so that no one is left out,” Tedros reasoned.
No matter the Supreme Court decision, the case will without a doubt cause repercussions on both sides of the argument. American higher education is an ever-changing establishment that will have to adapt to accommodate for the future decision of the Court. Whether that means completely eliminating affirmative action in colleges or allowing the practice to spread to other public universities, only time will tell.