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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

The End of Affirmative Action?

With updates.


The Decision That Upends the Equal-Protection Clause (Adam Harris, The Atlantic, 6-29-23) 'Legally, the decision is a landmark, taking a tool—the Fourteenth Amendment—meant to prevent discrimination against Black Americans in a post–Civil War landscape and turning it on its head, into a guarantor of a “race neutral” approach.'...In this case, the Court took Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, that “our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” to upend that historical purpose, a result that Justice Thurgood Marshall had in some ways predicted four decades ago. “It would be the cruelest irony for this Court to adopt the dissent in Plessy now and hold that the University must use color-blind admissions,” Marshall wrote.'

     "The term affirmative action first came into the federal lexicon in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, aimed at banning discrimination in the federal government and diversifying its workforce. In short order, colleges—which had become subject to enhanced federal antidiscrimination laws after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965—began to implement affirmative-action programs to build up their enrollment of students from historically marginalized communities."

Affirmative action in the United States (Wikipedia) An overview of the history (legal and otherwise) of this issue in the United States, arguments for and against it, its implementation, complaints and lawsuits, and public opinion on the issue. 'In general, "affirmative action" is supported by the general public, but "considerations based on race" are opposed.'

A New Legal Blitz on Affirmative Action (Liam Knox, Inside Higher Education, 9-20-23) Challenges to race-conscious policies are surging in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action, including a new lawsuit against West Point. Students for Fair Admissions, the group that spearheaded the Supreme Court cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, filed a lawsuit challenging the race-conscious admissions policies of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The organization is also revisiting lawsuits that were stayed pending the outcome of the Harvard and UNC cases (those against Yale, the University of Texas at Austin, and others).

Ketanji Brown Jackson Torches Clarence Thomas for Bulls--t Take on Affirmative Action (Bess Levin, Levin Report, Vanity Fair, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court’s conservative majority effectively ended affirmative action, and dissenting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chided her "conservative colleagues, one of whom has a well documented history of being anti-affirmative action—of straight up being racist." She accused them of "not having an earthly clue—or having one and just not giving a f--k—about the history and impact of racism in this country, which persists today, and which Thursday’s decision will only make worse."

The Court Unleashed (The Weekly Sift, 7-3-23) "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "Recall that last year, the Court didn’t merely eliminate abortion rights, its logic in Dobbs rejected the doctrine of substantive due process, potentially setting up the elimination of all rights that rely on that doctrine: same-sex marriage, access to birth control, the right of consenting adults to choose their own expressions of sexuality, and many others. In Bruen, it not only threw out a century-old New York State gun control law, it cast doubt on all gun-control laws that are not “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” as Justice Thomas interprets that history.
     "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "In the term’s final week, the Court burned its centrist credibility. It ended affirmative action in college admissions (and blew away the justification for any form of affirmative action), shot down the Biden administration’s student-loan forgiveness program, and inserted an enormous loophole into all anti-discrimination laws. This Court is increasingly untethering itself from all traditional restraints on judicial power."

On Race and Academia (John McWhorter newsletter, for NY Times subscribers, 7-4-23) "As an academic who is also Black, I have seen up close, over decades, what it means to take race into account....I will never shake the sentiment I felt on those committees, an unintended byproduct of what we could call academia’s racial preference culture: that it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others. That kind of assumption has been institutionalized within academic culture for a long time....the decision to stop taking race into account in admissions, assuming it is accompanied by other efforts to assist the truly disadvantaged, is, I believe, the right one to make."

‘There Was Definitely a Thumb on the Scale to Get Boys’ (Susan Dominus, NY Times Magazine, 9-8-23) Declining male enrollment has led many colleges to adopt an unofficial policy: affirmative action for men.

Is College Worth It? (The Daily podcast , 9-20-23) Podcast and transcript. The new economics of higher education makes going to college a risky bet.
        See also Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? (Paul Tough, NY Times, 9-5-23) Outside the United States, meanwhile, higher education is more popular than ever. What changed in the last decade to make a college education — and higher education as an institution — so unappealing to so many Americans? The college wage premium: How much you owe for going to college. How much net wealth does a typical college graduate accumulate over their life span, compared with that of a typical high school graduate? Millennials with college degrees are earning a good bit more than those without, but they aren’t accumulating any more wealth. The likely culprit: cost--the rising expense of college and the student debt that often goes along with it. Since 1992, the sticker price has almost doubled for four-year private colleges and more than doubled for four-year public colleges, even after adjusting for inflation. And In a 2017 Gallup poll, the No. 1 reason Republicans gave for their declining faith in higher ed was that colleges had become “too liberal/political.”

Supreme Court Rejects Affirmative Action Programs at Harvard and U.N.C. (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, declaring that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful and sharply curtailing a policy that had long been a pillar of higher education. In earlier decisions, the court had endorsed taking account of race as one factor among many to promote educational diversity. Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized her dissent from the bench, a rare move that signals profound disagreement, and said that affirmative action was crucial to countering persistent and systematic racial discrimination.

Harvard’s Admissions Is Challenged for Favoring Children of Alumni (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 7-3-23) After the Supreme Court banned race-conscious affirmative action, activists filed a complaint, saying legacy admissions helped students who are overwhelmingly rich and white. Harvard’s special admissions treatment for students whose parents are alumni, or whose relatives donated money, has been called affirmative action for the rich, and in a complaint filed on Monday, a legal activist group demanded that the federal government put an end to it, arguing that fairness was even more imperative after the Supreme Court last week severely limited race-conscious admissions.

Heather Cox Richaradson, 6-29-23)" If this fight sounds political, it should. It mirrors the current political climate in which right-wing activists reject the idea of systemic racism that the U.S. has acknowledged and addressed in the law since the 1950s. They do not believe that the Fourteenth Amendment supports the civil rights legislation that tries to guarantee equality for historically marginalized populations, and in today’s decision the current right-wing majority on the court demonstrated that it is willing to push that political agenda at the expense of settled law. As recently as 2016, the court reaffirmed that affirmative action, used since the 1960s, is constitutional. Today’s court just threw that out."

To be continued...

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