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Supreme Court

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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In a blow to opponents of Obamacare, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a case brought by Liberty University, challenging the “contraception mandate” and employer coverage mandate under the new law.

Fox News reports:

Liberty made several arguments in challenging the portion of the health care law that requires most employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fine. The 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Richmond, Va., rejected those claims.

With the high court’s decision, that ruling remains in place.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes more than a year after it had ordered the federal appeals court to reconsider Liberty University’s claims that the law violates the school’s religious freedoms…

Read more.

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As the Supreme Court weighs another affirmative action case this week, a student at Cal State University Fullerton let his classmates know the practice has serious flaws.

Writing in The Daily Titan, Ian O’Brien notes in a column titled “Affirmative Action Ultimately Hurts Students, Universities” that the “idea of equality being achieved with affirmative action needs closer examination.”

While affirmative action may bring in more minorities, it could have the potential of excluding other communities of color that have been overrepresented in universities.

Affirmative action has been designed as a way to negate the discrimination minorities endured back in the civil rights era. This line of thinking may backfire. It makes it seem that minorities are unable to move up in society without assistance from public policy, reinforcing the idea that they are perpetually inferior.

While it may be a valid idea to assist individuals who have been historically disadvantaged, it makes no sense to punish groups of people for having consistently performed quality work.

It is not possible to choose what race or family an individual is born into, so a better ideal of equality would mean evaluating everyone on the same basis.

Public universities should take a more results oriented approach to its admissions policies. If minority applicants with lower than average qualifications are seen to have the potential to succeed in college, the universities evaluating their applications should send their information to a less selective university that has the resources to help them succeed.

Admitting an applicant, regardless of color, who is underqualified to combat the rigor of a university’s curriculum could inadvertently strain the university’s resources, as the student may take longer to graduate.

Read more.

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The Supreme Court will once again visit race-based preferences in college admissions as oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action are slated for Tuesday.

“This will be an important day in the fight for true equality,” states Jennifer Gratz, president of the pro-equal protection XIV Foundation, based in Michigan. “Seven other states in addition to Michigan have voted to end preferential treatment based on race and gender. How the Court rules in this case will have national implications, determining whether or not citizens have the right to choose equality over discrimination.”

At issue is a voter initiative passed by Michigan residents in 2006 that required an end to race-based college admissions preferences.

“Last year the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals accepted (affirmative action proponents’) mind-boggling arguments and overturned the will of the people,” Gratz stated. “Fortunately, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an appeal, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.”

“Much progress has been made over the past 15 years in challenging discriminatory policies based on race preferences and requiring colorblind government. The Schuette case offers yet another opportunity to keep the country moving toward this goal. I believe the Court will recognize that nearly 7 years ago, Michigan chose the right direction.”

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A University of Arizona professor who teaches constitutional law said he believes the Second Amendment does not grant citizens the right to own guns, that the right spelled out by Founding Fathers to “keep and bear arms” applies only to well-regulated militias.

Chad Westerland, an associate professor of political science and associate director of the School of Government and Public Policy, recently told the Arizona Daily Wildcat that “the Second Amendment is not clearly written.”

“It doesn’t say you have a right to carry a gun; there’s a right to bear arms that’s connected to maintaining a well-regulated militia.”

Subsequently contacted by The College Fix, Westerland said he was quoted accurately and stands by his statement in the campus newspaper.

Westerland was quoted in a student’s editorial calling for increased gun control in the aftermath of the mid-September Navy Yard mass shooting, which left 13 people dead.

Westerland, a popular professor among students, teaches undergraduate courses in American constitutional law, law and social change, and judicial process, as well as graduate courses on American politics and statistical methodology.

In an interview with The Fix, Westerland declined to state his personal beliefs on gun control or whether citizens would be able to own guns if he were in a leadership position.

The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In explaining his academic interpretation, he said only since 2008 have individual Americans been granted the right to keep and bear arms, citing the landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller, which abolished gun bans.

So it was the courts, not the framers, who recently gave citizens that right, he said.

He also referred to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago to note that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms was not applied to the states, via the Fourteenth Amendment, until three years ago.

Westerland said that his interpretation of the Second Amendment is mostly a matter of personal preference and study, as he comes from a family of gun owners, though he does not personally own any firearms.

When questioned about the National Rifle Association and its lobby efforts, Professor Westerland said that he does not condemn their beliefs and respects their right to have a presence in the gun control debate.

As for the NRA, statements on their website appear to refute Westerland’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

The advocacy group notes that “some people claim that there is no individual right to own firearms.”

“However, anyone familiar with the principles upon which this country was founded will recognize this claim’s most glaring flaw: in America, rights–by definition–belong to individuals.”

The website cites several Founding Fathers to that end: Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms”; Patrick Henry: “The great object is, that every man be armed”; Richard Henry Lee: “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms”; Thomas Paine: “(Arms) discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property”; and Samuel Adams: “The said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”

Fix contributor Katie Jones is a student at the University of Arizona.

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IMAGE: WallyG/Flickr

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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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