Fisher v. the University of Texas

OPINION

Conservative college students at the University of Texas have been wrongly vilified for creatively and deliciously pointing out the inherent flaws of affirmative action through their recent “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” at the Austin campus.

The crux of the bake sale controversy is the Young Conservatives of Texas-Austin’s pricing sign that listed the brownies and cookies as follows: “$2 white,” “$1.50 Asians,” “$1 Latino,” “75 cents Black,” and “.25 cents Native American.” On the side of the sign it read: “25 cents off for all women.”

Clearly the conservative students at the University of Texas aimed to illustrate the absurdity of giving preferences – monetary and otherwise – based on race, ethnicity or gender.bakesale1

But Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, swiftly denounced the conservative students’ obvious political statement, calling it “inflammatory and demeaning.” The student newspaper chimed in by giving Vincent a “horns up” for taking on the students. Some comments on the conservative students’ Facebook page are downright disgusting, calling the group “attention whores” or “backwards a**holes.”

Vincent, in his statement, argued that “the choice of a tiered pricing structure creates the misperception that some students either do not belong at the university or do not deserve to have access to our institution—or worse, that they belong or deserve only to a certain degree.”

OK, essentially that’s a backhanded way of calling these students racist. As an administrator of the campus, that is a shameful abuse of power and wholly inappropriate.

What’s more, he’s dead wrong. The students – at the campus at the heart of the recent Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court decision that did not look favorably on affirmative action policies – clearly just aimed to illustrate that racial preferences are so obviously flawed that a simple bake sale demonstration proves that out.

“Although it is their right to do so, it is deplorable that a few students took advantage of this open forum to direct negative sentiment toward their peers,” Vincent wrote.

What’s actually deplorable, however, is that people are still judged today by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. That the larger point these kids made has instead been lost in ad hominem attacks against them.

“The YCT’s approach to this issue also ignores the fact that demographics are just one of many criteria taken into account when applying for admission to UT, a fact that the university has repeatedly and staunchly defended in the Fisher v. UT case,” Vincent wrote.

Are just one of many criteria? By “demographics” he’s partially referring to race, and it shouldn’t be a criteria at all.

The Supreme Court, in a 7 to 1 ruling in the Fisher case in June, avoided making a sweeping ruling on affirmative action in college admissions in a result described as a partial victory for opponents of racial preferences.

Justice Clarence Thomas even wrote in a separate opinion that the court should have taken the opportunity to make a more comprehensive ruling, saying: “I write separately to explain that I would overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, and hold that a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.”

Jennifer Gratz, a well-known civil rights activist and CEO of the XIV Foundation, said at the time: “The Court once again confirmed that universities must be moving to end these policies and that they must first attempt to achieve diversity through race-neutral means.”

Underscoring all this, what is perhaps the most striking of all in regard to this embattled UT bake sale – is the pictures of these Young Conservatives of Texas making their brownies and cookies and selling them on the campus’ West Mall. Despite clearly having a diverse mix of members – Latino, white, Asian and so on – they came together as Americans. They see far beyond color lines and ethnicity charts.

I called Lorenzo Garcia, the student chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas-Austin, for a comment. He said the group is set to put one out later this week.

Until then, bravo, Young Conservatives of Texas, for standing up for America, common sense, and the belief that all individuals can achieve great things without special treatment or government handouts.

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

IMAGES: Facebook screenshots

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A Supreme Court decision on whether universities can use race as an admissions factor is expected by June, however the court of public opinion has already weighed in on the matter – and Americans of all stripes stand largely against affirmative action, according to a variety of recent polls.

In those surveys, at least half if not more of those polled voiced opposition to race-based preferences.

Take a Rasmussen national telephone survey, which found only 24 percent of likely voters were in favor of using race as a factor in college admissions, while 55 percent stood opposed, and the rest were undecided. That survey was conducted 11 months ago.

More recently, a survey released in October found that 57 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 – so-called young millennials – are opposed to racial preferences in college admissions or hiring decisions. In other words, nearly six out of every 10 opposed the practice.

“Although most younger millennials are firmly opposed to affirmative action programs in college admissions, relatively few report that they were hurt in the college admissions process because of their race or gender,” states a report on the results of the survey, conducted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs at Georgetown University and the Public Religion Research Institute.

Results also indicated 47 percent of those in that age group “oppose programs that make special efforts to help blacks and other minorities to get ahead because of past discrimination.”

What’s more, the survey found “support for affirmative action programs diminishes considerably when younger millennials are asked specifically about affirmative action for college admission.”

The same month that survey was released, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Fisher v. the University of Texas, which deals with race-conscious college admissions in America’s public universities.

Most of academia has expressed support for the University of Texas, which aims to continue its practice of using race as a preferential factor in admissions decisions. Administrators and faculty at elite schools have also chimed in, defending the notion of “diversity” in the classroom. All members of the Ivy League, the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, and other big-name schools, have filed amicus briefs on University of Texas’ behalf.

Yet the higher education community’s overwhelming support for racial preferences is not mirrored by the general public.

This month, the American Enterprise Institute released a political report that compiled public opinion on a variety of issues, including affirmative action. In its publication, the organization cited data from a 2010 survey by the National Opinion Research Center which found that a vast majority of Americans – 81 percent – oppose affirmative action policies that favor African Americans.

What’s more, only between 44 and 62 percent of blacks polled voiced support for various minority preferences, the poll found. AEI’s public opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman notes, in an interview with The College Fix, that results on such a sensitive topic are always swayed by how pollsters’ frame the question.

Nevertheless, she points to perhaps the most consistent of all affirmative action data available, an annual survey by the UCLA-based Higher Education Research Institute. The poll has found that, since 1995 and every year since, roughly 50 percent of college freshmen believe race-based university admissions preferences should be abolished.

“You could balance a glass of water on that line it’s so flat,” Bowman says.

Fix contributor Danielle Charette is a student at Swarthmore College.

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IMAGE: Donkey Hotey/Flickr

 

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