This week, The Supreme Court ruled against the use of race as a factor in the college admissions process, taking a significant step backward for our country and an additional step back for Texas in light of the state’s recent ban against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices in public colleges and universities.
We do not live in a post-racial society. Race plays a role in the resources and funding students receive, the opportunities students have access to, and even how their teachers and college counselors treat them. America will never be able to correct the systemic racial disparities we live with today without race-conscious policies and practices.
Affirmative action was created to work against racial discrimination that blocked access to career and educational opportunities for people of color and those from underrepresented groups during President Johnson’s administration and the Civil Rights Era of the 60s. Colleges and universities adopted affirmative action policies and practices to advance racial equity in college admissions, improving outcomes for people of color and white women. Race-based policies and practices have a universal impact on all of us. We all do better when our society is well-educated and thriving socially and economically. Affirmative action exposes college students to diverse populations, enriches their educational environment, and fosters critical thinking by considering different lived experiences. Diverse schooling prepares students to create solutions in a more diverse and globalized society.
Before this ruling, only nine states had bans in place for race-based admissions. Texas banned race-conscious admissions in 1996, but that ruling was revoked in 2003.
The removal of race as a factor does not significantly improve the diversity of college campuses or increase the number of underrepresented students of color that attend these institutions. In states that ban race-based admissions, like California, the number of Latinx and Black students who attend state system schools drastically declined. Racial underrepresentation cannot be rectified overnight. All students should have equal access and opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, especially at schools funded by the diverse communities that live in the state. All of the states that currently ban race in college admissions still see racial disparities in college admissions at their state’s “selective” schools.
A few key things to note from this ruling: While race as an admissions factor is banned,
- Students are still allowed to write about the impact of their race in their essays. It is too soon to understand how colleges may judge the merits of such essays. It may also appear unfair for students of color to have to use one of their essays to speak to points that should already be taken into consideration.
- Other admissions factors like legacy, recommendations, donations, parents’ place of employment, etc. are still intact. These factors are heavily dependent on wealth, privilege, and race and should also be analyzed and judged for fairness and equity.
For Texas, the affirmative action decision creates additional burdens for students, families, colleges, and universities. These policies will likely create a chilling effect that impacts students and universities. Texas’ ban on DEI offices has already signaled to people of color that they are not valued and their lived experience with race and racism is not valid or real. With the DEI ban, Texans are now left wondering if colleges and universities will have the capacity to properly care for students of color who decide to enroll and how these institutions will approach recruitment and admissions in a way that is both legal and effective. Regardless of the affirmative action ruling and DEI restrictions, our colleges and universities have the responsibility to understand that:
- Students of color are well-able to thrive at colleges and universities – especially when they are provided with the necessary resources and support.
- It is the responsibility of these institutions to ensure that students of color are safe and able to thrive socially and economically on campus and beyond.
- Without racial diversity, the transforming power of our colleges and universities will fail.