Addressing the playing field
Affirmative action should be maintained but restructured
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 19:10
On Tuesday, affirmative action reappeared before the Supreme Court. Only months after they ruled on the issue last session, they are revisiting it this week, as they prepare to decide on the constitutionality of a state amending its constitution to prohibit consideration of race or sex in its public universities.
Affirmative action has garnered much controversy since its conception, impelling a host of mixed feelings in many. And that is understandable – it likely means you are thoughtful and attempting to think critically about this issue.
And while the current system in place within many institutional structures is not perfect, it is important that the issue is addressed in at least some fashion. A state should be afforded the right to determine its own policies – but it does not have the right to remove federal policies that have been signed into law by the legislature and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Affirmative action policies are designed to ensure diversity and equal opportunity, and it is pivotal that they are enforced in specific states – especially where a history of discrimination cannot be ignored – and each state should be held to the same standard.
The voters of Michigan say affirmative action practices should be removed from their public institutions; the problem lies in it being a misconception that it is entirely their prerogative.
A state may govern itself but it must abide by the laws and rules prescribed by its federal legislature, especially ones that work to expand “equal protection under law.”
In a 7-1 decision that came out in June, the court upheld the practice of affirmative action policies to ensure diversity in higher education institutions, but it also insisted on “strict scrutiny” of how these policies are implemented.
This decision, however, will depend on the court’s ruling of how a state may interfere with this process. The amendment forbidding affirmative action was passed by 58 percent of the state’s voters in 2006, and it propels the question of whether voters can alter the practice entirely and influence the verdict of elected officials on the matter – after the court has made its ruling.
The part of the amendment in question is what says the state’s public colleges and universities “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”
We do not buy the argument that ensuring a quota of students of certain minority categories is an unfair practice. Though many students gain admissions to universities through affirmative action, just as many gain admissions through legacies and privilege.
Racial variety is just one of the many factors that a college should aspire to encompass. And these candidates who are granted acceptance are not unqualified – they are considered within a specific pool.
It is important that the benefit of education is available to as many people as possible in this nation – and affirmative action is a way of continuing us along that trajectory.
But race, gender, ethnicity, etc. are not the only aspects relevant here. Students of lower socioeconomic status are in a dire position of adversity when it comes to finding ways to gain access to higher education establishments.
More efforts should be initiated to ensure they have the opportunity to pursue a degree – by providing mechanisms to help them afford it.
This issue of equal opportunity is more than just a race issue – it is a cultural issue. And in order to make our culture the strongest it can be, we have to make sure we find ways to strengthen as diverse a group of people as possible.
A country works best only when its people are given a chance to succeed in it. As the Supreme Court considers this decision, they should remember their previous rulings and maintain the progress we have made thus far.