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  • Jenna Scalia

Case for Affirmative Action

When President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 in 1965, it was with good intentions, especially following the efforts made during the Civil Rights Movement.

President John F. Kennedy left behind the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity that was established in 1961 and had issued Executive Order 10925 prior to his death, which used the term "affirmative action" to describe measures designed to achieve non-discrimination in the United States within selection-based opportunities. Now in the year 2022, Affirmative Action has become a topic of debate in regard to fairness and merit.

The centralized issue that surrounds affirmative action is that it has carried over to college campuses. Schools, most notably the Ivy League schools, have been known to be racially conscious in regard to their admission programs. The Supreme Court case may eradicate racial consciousness from college applications and base their selections on merit alone. The public has mixed feelings and rightfully so. For something to both grant opportunities to some and also take them away from others based on the color of their skin, rather than their academic achievement and scholarly merit seems unfair.

As a white person, this is a hard article to write. Not because of my race, but because I have seen both sides of this debate. I feel both empathy and frustration. When applying to colleges and scholarships in the fall of 2020, I dreaded having to select the “white/Caucasian” option when it came to identifying my race on the application. I didn’t understand why it mattered. Why did a social construct (race) matter when it came to furthering my education? All of these things are not meant to be insensitive or offensive, however, these are the same questions that will be pondered by the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

The Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) is challenging the race-based admissions policies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, accusing the university of discriminating against applicants on the basis of their race and violating equal-protection principles. For the case between the SFFA vs. the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, the Supreme Court has been asked to rule out whether the continuing use of race as a factor in college admissions violates the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court will be reviewing the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case that resulted in race being used as a factor in college admissions, with the goal of achieving student-body diversity. Former Justice Sandra O’Connor argued in 2003 that American higher education still needs affirmative action, at least until 2028.

The idea is that the current generation will be educated and minorities will be given higher opportunities over those in higher-income areas and will be placed in higher-income jobs. By that point, when those individuals go on to have children, the opportunity will be seen as relatively equal in theory.

As I’ve stated before, I understand and see both sides. As a person whose family member once stood on the Supreme Court, I can personally say that the Supreme Court considers every single aspect of an argument carefully and logically. They also stand by the Constitution of the United States as a way to guide them in their decision-making process.

While this is not the easiest topic in American politics to discuss openly, I do hope that rather than creating a further divide amongst groups, people will come together and hear each other’s sides. I am constantly praying that the divide I see every day, even here at the Mount, will one day cease and tensions between groups will no longer come in the way of standing as a united front; as citizens of the United States.


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