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affirmative action

The Supreme Court has issued its ruling today in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The ruling could signal that the days of race-based affirmative action preferences in college admissions are numbered.

It was a 6-2 ruling, with the majority upholding a state-wide ban on racial preferences passed by Michigan voters in 2006. That ban was narrowly overturned by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012. The ruling today represents yet another reversal.

USA TODAY reports on the limited scope of the ruling:

The decision came in a case brought by Michigan, where a voter-approved initiative banning affirmative action had been tied up in court for a decade.

Seven other states — California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire – have similar bans. Now, others may follow suit.

But the ruling, which was expected after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Michigan law, did not jeopardize the wide use of racial preferences in many of the 42 states without bans. Such affirmative action programs were upheld, though subjected to increased scrutiny, in the high court’s June ruling involving the University of Texas.

Civil rights activist Jennifer Gratz of the XIV Foundation, whose Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger started the fight to end racial preferences in Michigan more than 10 years ago, had this to say about the Schuette decision: “Much progress has been made over the past 15 years in challenging discriminatory policies based on race preferences and moving toward colorblind government. Today’s ruling preserves this foundation and is a clear signal that states are moving in the right direction when they do away with policies that treat people differently based on race, gender, ethnicity or skin color.”

POLITICO.com reports that “National Education Association, the American Council on Education and the National School Boards Association — as well as chancellors of the University of California system — have publicly opposed the affirmative action ban. The Obama administration also urged that the ban be overturned.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. Justice Elana Kagan recused herself from the case for unknown reasons.

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Fox News reports:

The fight over affirmative action in California’s higher education system is coming back.

Under a proposed constitutional amendment that passed the Senate on Thursday, voters would reconsider affirmative action programs at the University of California and California State University systems on the November ballot. SCA5 would remove certain prohibitions in place since 1996, when voters approved Proposition 209.

That initiative made California the first state to ban the use of race and ethnicity in public university admissions, as well as state hiring and contracting.

Read more.

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Former College Fix assistant editor writes today for The Detroit News about the recent racial controversy at the University of Michigan, claiming that political conservatives are the real victims on campus:

On Martin Luther King Day, minority students at the University of Michigan made a list of demands, speaking out against what they feel is a hostile campus climate for people of color. Within days, the university capitulated to the group’s most costly request: a $300,000 renovation of the multicultural center.

Which begs the question: If U-M is as cruel and lonely a place for students of color as they claim it is, why do they always get what they want?

In reality, U-M could not possibly be more committed to appeasing minority students. In pursuit of racial diversity, administrators have proved willing to do just about anything: they fought an anti-affirmative action measure supported by 60 percent of Michigan voters, directed their legal experts to find ways around the law, and even provided monetary aid to minority groups in their efforts to protest the law.

In November, students of color undertook an effort to draw national media attention to their grievances, using the hashtag “Being Black at the University of Michigan” on social media to explain why their experiences at U-M have left them feeling marginalized. Said grievances were much was less riveting than advertised. One student wrote, “Having your opinions be second guessed or ignored in a group assignment.” Another wrote, “Being soft spoken in class because you don’t feel you belong, but then being docked points because you are not engaged in class.”

Such anecdotes hardly demonstrate that the campus is a hostile place for black students…

Click here for the full story.

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Former Fix assistant editor Robby Soave of The Daily Caller reports on a new lawsuit filed by libertarian students against the University of Michigan:

A libertarian student club is suing the University of Michigan for political discrimination stemming from a decision made by UM officials to deny funding to the group.

A university funding commission refused to fund UM’s chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty on the grounds that the group was engaged in “political” activity–despite giving money to left-leaning political groups, such as the NAACP and Immigrant Rights Advocacy.

In October, YAL hosted a guest lecture by anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz. The event, which was covered by The Daily Caller, drew a crowd of left-wing hecklers.

Later, YAL organizers petitioned the university to contribute $1,000 toward the cost of the event. UM collects mandatory fees from students, and allocates the money–about $300,000 each year–to various student groups for the express purpose of hosting events and bringing speakers to campus.

But YAL’s request was denied by the Student Organization Funding Commission on the grounds that it hosted a “political” event, making it ineligible for funding under UM policy, which forbids that the money go to political or religious causes.

By collecting mandatory fees from students and then refusing to fund these students’ events, the university is violating the First Amendment to the Constitution, the lawsuit alleges

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Robert Chao Romero, an ethnic studies professor at UCLA who also runs a Christian youth ministry in Los Angeles, argues students are often taught Christianity and social justice causes such as immigration reform and affirmative action stand opposed.

But the way Romero sees it, Jesus would support immigration reform, affirmative action – even the Affordable Care Act – and it’s part of a message he gives to college students to teach them about “Jesus’ heart for justice,” he tells The College Fix.

Romero recently published a free ebook, “Jesus For Revolutionaries,” which spells out in detail why he believes Jesus would support all three measures.

When it comes to Obamacare, Romero said he – and Jesus – support it because “50,000 of my neighbors in the United States die each year for lack of meaningful healthcare.”

“To love them as myself requires that I support structural change to our nation’s health care system,” he explains. “The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but it is a strong step away from the status quo and towards loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

It’s the same concept behind immigration reform and affirmative action, he adds.

“Any time immigrants and the poor are marginalized and exploited, I believe that God wants us to implement changes to society which alleviate their suffering and restore their dignity as children of God,” Romero said in an email to The Fix.

“God identifies with the suffering of immigrants and the poor, so much that He teaches that when we interact with them, we are actually interacting with Him,” Romero said. “If we truly love God, then we will also love the poor and disenfranchised. It is impossible to truly know God and continually exploit the poor and marginalized.”

Over the last seven years, Romero has slowly built up a ministry among college students in the greater Los Angeles area, one that galvanizes young people to volunteer and mentor for various urban ministries. He also launched a “Christian Students of Conscience” campus club that is unique to UCLA, but works with students across Los Angeles.

Pastor Romero, who was ordained by a small, black interdenominational council of churches in South Los Angeles, describes himself as a “pastor to the pastor-less,” adding: “Many of the students we mentor don’t have a close relationship with any church.”

The vision of Christian Students of Conscience, according to its Facebook page, is to launch “Jesus-centered movements of justice and racial reconciliation at UCLA and at colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad.”

Romero trains and mobilizes students around issues of poverty, justice and race, and provides a community of faith for students passionate about those issues.

“In fact, Jesus invented justice,” Romero said.

Christian Students of Conscience is billed as a place for students who care about social justice but find no place to express their concern in traditional church settings and campus ministries.

“Sadly, many Christian college students have walked away from church and their commitment to Christ because they viewed the organized church as irrelevant to the needs and concerns of the poor and people of color,” its website states.

Romero said his work inside the classroom does not overlap with his efforts as a pastor.

He wrote Jesus For Revolutionaries in his spare time and from the perspective of “a Chinese-Mexican, Asian-Latino, Jesus-loving pastor, lawyer and professor of Chicana/o studies and Asian American studies.”

Asked why Jesus would support amnesty, the professor said: “Jesus would have us extend compassion towards immigrants who are made in His image. In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that if our love for Him is sincere, then we will have a heart of compassion for immigrants.”

By quoting the Bible, Romero said he believes he provides evidence to back his viewpoint that “Jesus transcends all human political structures-both of his own day and our own.”

Is Jesus a Republican or Democrat? Romero said he’s neither.

“That being said, as for His humanity, He was from a poor Jewish background and He lived under the oppression of Roman imperialism,” Romero said. “Jesus knows what it is like to be poor and marginalized.”

Romero said he supports immigration reform, and so does God.

“I support immigration reform because millions of undocumented immigrants are being exploited as cheap labor, torn apart from their families through unjust deportations, and scapegoated by racist laws such as Arizona SB-1070,” he said. “God makes it clear through dozens of Bible verses that we are not supposed to exploit immigrants.”

As for affirmative action, Romero cites 2 Corinthians 8:13, which states: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

“The goal of educational affirmative action is that there might be equality for students who come from backgrounds of poverty and from unequal educational systems,” he says. “Urban schools are largely the legacy of historical racism.”

Fix contributor Samantha Watkins is a student at Pt. Loma Nazarene University.

IMAGE: Photo Dean/Flickr

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OPINION

When Lanya Olmstead, the daughter of a Taiwanese-American woman and Norwegian-American man, filled out her college applications a few years ago, she left one box conspicuously blank:

“I don’t want to put ‘Asian’ down,” she told The Associated Press in 2011, “because my mother told me there’s discrimination against Asians in the admissions process.”

Was her mother right?

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that she is. A 2009 study by sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford revealed that, at private colleges, an Asian applicant must score 140 points higher on the SAT to have an equal chance of being admitted as a white student.

Ron Unz, writing in The American Conservative, has found that as the population of college-age Asians in the United States has increased rapidly over the past few decades, the percentage of Asians enrolled in each of the Ivy League schools has remained surprisingly flat at between 15 percent and 18 percent. When California’s Proposition 209 mandated race-neutrality in admissions at public colleges in 1996, the percentage of Asians enrolled at some of the most prestigious California public universities jumped over the span of just a few years.

The truth is that the precise extent to which any institution discriminates on the basis of race — including Cornell — is impossible to discover. Universities claim to use a “holistic” admissions process, where all parts of an individual’s application are given their proper attention. The problem is that there is no objective way to determine how much relative value ought to be placed on particular characteristics.

Few of us know, though many of us have tried to guess, the precise importance that different universities place on things like academic aptitude, athletic ability, musical talent or having a certain skin color. This lack of transparency prevents the larger community from questioning what gets taken into account when admissions decisions are made.

When affirmative action was first implemented at many universities, it was driven by a desire to harm certain student groups. We know now that Harvard’s original affirmative action program was designed to limit the number of New York Jews in attendance. Nowadays, the people who support race-conscious admissions policies have good motivations; they want to give opportunity to students who they feel face have hardship because of their racial identity.

But those who want our university to increase the weight given to a student’s “under-represented minority” status in order to get Cornell’s racial demographics more in line with those of the country must know that the necessary effect of their policy will be to discriminate against Asians. After all, our university will never “look like the rest of the country” in terms of race so long as Asians, who constitute about 6 percent of America’s population, are more than 16 percent of the undergraduates on this campus.

Should we be surprised that students who advocate for race-based affirmative action, often on the basis of it being an “anti-racist” policy, do not seem to care that their policy hurts a historically oppressed minority?

Not at all.

Our present way of looking at race and diversity is riddled with contradictions. Chief among them is the paradoxical belief that the way to bring people together across racial lines — to move beyond the divisions of the past — is to first focus on race. By starting from such an illogical premise, we doom ourselves to produce results that are far different from our intentions when we pursue racial diversity, no matter how benevolent our motivations are.

Why should we be surprised that diversity programs that are supposed to make us proud of who we are cause some of us to shield our identities on our college applications? Why should we be surprised that colleges that claim to want to break down stereotypes divide us into crude and extremely broad categories like “Asian” and “Hispanic” and treat us differently on that basis?

But the harm in our flawed mindset on racial diversity does not just lie in its own contradictions. By focusing on race, we prevent ourselves from focusing on what people actually bring to the table rather than how they look. A university should be about having ideological diversity, not about having a certain percentage of its student body with particular immutable characteristics like skin color.

As we place a higher and higher value upon the social construct of race, we place relatively lower value on discussing the values and ideas that determine who we really are. It is time for us to rethink our conception of diversity.

Julius Kairey is a student at Cornell University. This piece originally ran in The Cornell Daily Sun on Dec. 5 and has been republished in its entirety with permission.

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