With Supreme Court decision, affirmative action hangs in the balance

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KIMBERLY WEST-FAULCON

 

While the United States Supreme Court decision on affirmative action last week did not eliminate the use of race-based criteria in college admissions, many do not see the decision as a victory.

“There are a number of justices who are on record as against race-based affirmative action, but there are not five votes for that so it hasn’t been eliminated,” said professor Kimberly West-Faulcon former western regional counsel and director at the Los Angeles office of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. “Draw goes to the status quo.”

The decision is being considered a draw because the case of Fisher vs. Texas, in which a White student claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas based on her race, was sent back to the lower courts for consideration. Where it will go from there remains unclear, but experts predict there will continue to be affirmative action court challenges in the future.

“The decision on (June 24) will not likely have a legal impact on colleges and universities. What it tells colleges and universities is very minimal. It does not change any rules,” said West-Faulcon, who teaches constitutional law and principles of social justice at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. “Race based affirmative action remains legal.”

For now, colleges and universities around the country are looking for new and innovative ways to increase diversity on their campuses beyond using affirmative action in admissions. At the University of Pittsburgh the African American Alumni council has solicited $7.47 million in donations for diversity initiatives, part of which will go toward scholarships for African-American students.

“We are very grateful for the commitment and leadership provided by African American Alumni Council whose combined efforts to foster diversity have made an important contribution to the University’s continuing progress,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, in a June 26 press release announcing the success. “The generosity of the many AAAC members who contributed to scholarships has provided essential funding to attract, support, and retain talented, diverse, and highly qualified students to the University of Pittsburgh.”

Other local colleges and universities are focusing their diversity efforts on increasing African-American participation in science, math, and technology studies. In May Carnegie Mellon joined Clemson University and five other universities to launch the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Science, aimed at increasing African-American participation in computing.

“African-Americans represent about 1 percent of the computer science faculty and researchers in the U.S.,” said Juan Gilbert, chairman of the human-centered computing division at Clemson, in a release announcing the partnership. “We formed iAAMCS to increase the number of underrepresented groups earning computing science doctoral degrees and researchers in the academy, government and private sector.”

Similarly, Point Park University has a program targeting African-American participation in math related fields. Their Urban Accounting Initiative was launched in 2011 in an effort to increase the number of African-Americans in the accounting and finance fields.

The percentage of America’s post secondary students who are Black rose from 9 percent to 14 percent between 1976 to 2010.

 

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