Wednesday, April 23, 2014

US Supreme Court: Wealth and Privilege Not Diversity to Determine College Admissions

The United States Supreme Court decided in a 6-2 decision to uphold a Michigan amendment to their constitution banning the use of racial preferences in college admissions. 

With the majority of the Supreme Court consisting of justices having either served in the Reagan Administration or holding extremely partisan Republican views, it was not surprising.  Affirmative action and voting rights laws have been decimated in the United States of America by these justices with lifelong appointments to the Highest Court.

Reagan’s record on civil rights was abysmal and appalling to civil rights advocates, but admired and fostered by states’ rights advocates. 

Supported Bob Jones Univ.’s miscegeny policy, inadvertently.

The president was so cut off from the counsel of black Americans that he sometimes did not even realize when he was offending them. One example occurred when Reagan sided with Bob Jones University in a lawsuit to obtain federal tax exemptions that had been denied by the IRS. The IRS denied tax exemptions to segregated private schools. Many of them were schools such as Bob Jones University, which enrolled a handful of minority students but prohibited interracial dating and marriage. It was the basis of this discrimination that the IRS denied the tax exemption.

Opposed Voting Rights Act of 1965 as “humiliating to South”

Reagan never supported the use of federal power to provide blacks with civil rights. He opposed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reagan said in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South.” While he made political points with white southerners on this issue, he was sensitive to any suggestion that his stands on civil rights issues were politically or racially motivated, and he typically reacted to such criticisms as attacks on his personal integrity.

Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 520 , Jul 2, 1991

Yep, that was good old Reagan.  Reagan fought to overturn the Voting Rights and Affirmative Action.  Back in March of 1988, George E. Curry wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

WASHINGTON — President Reagan, setting the stage for a showdown with Congress on civil rights, Wednesday vetoed a bill that would restore federal protections for minority groups, women, the elderly and the physically disabled.

It had been anticipated that Reagan would veto the Civil Rights Restoration Act even though it had been passed by wide margins in the House and Senate. The President said the act would ``vastly and unjustifiably extend the power of the federal government over the decisions and affairs of private organizations.

The act affects any business or institution that accepts federal funds in its operations.

Tuesday’s decision by 6 uber-conservative state’s rights advocates returns our country to a time when higher education is reserved for the wealthy, privileged children of the powerful.  These justices have been completing the Reagan dream.

In June 2013 the Roberts Court decimated the voting rights act.  According to the Washington Post:

A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated a crucial component of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that Congress has not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out certain states for federal oversight.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other conservative members of the court in the majority.

The Reagan legacy of states’ rights lives on.  And, what was the result of the misguided ruling by 5 men to overturn years of hard fought civil rights legislation?

Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law requiring nine states to submit voting law changes to the federal government for pre-clearance, five* are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had already been rejected as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.

The spate of new and potentially discriminatory laws is exactly why proponents of the Voting Rights Act argued that Section 4, the pre-clearance requirement, should remain in place.

Before 1965, when the law was first passed, state and local governments came up with ever-inventive ways to keep blacks from voting, forcing the federal government to launch countless legal battles. When Texas was prohibited from holding all-white primaries in 1927, for example, it passed a new law to allow the party leadership to decide who could vote. They chose an all-white primary.

“Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her fierce dissent of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place. This Court repeatedly encountered the remarkable ‘variety and persistence’ of laws disenfranchising minority citizens,” she continued.

Joseph Stalin said ‘It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes”.  Stalin would be jealous of the GOP.  It’s not only who counts the votes, it’s who is allowed to vote and who chooses the candidates on the ballot.

History of Affirmative Action

The NationalCouncil on State Legislatures April 7, 2014 article writes:


Affirmative action policies initially focused on improving opportunities for African Americans in employment and education. The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 outlawing school segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 improved life prospects for African Americans. In 1965, however, only five percent of undergraduate students, one percent of law students, and two percent of medical students in the country were African American. President Lyndon Johnson, an advocate for affirmative action, signed an Executive Order in 1965 that required government contractors to use affirmative action policies in their hiring to increase the number of minority employees.

President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair."

The reasoning of the majority in upholding Michigan’s constitutional amendment to ban affirmative action is really interesting:

Kennedy stressed that the case was not about the constitutionality or merits of the race-conscious admissions policies of colleges and universities, but instead hinged on whether voters in the state may choose to prohibit consideration of such preferences.

Opponents of affirmative action claim that affirmative action amplifies racial prejudice and that affirmative action programs are condescending to minorities because it is implied that these groups need affirmative action in order to succeed in higher education.

So, one may deduce that the Supreme Court really leveled the playing field by doing minorities a favor.  Oh, contraire.  According to Business Insider:

Legacies Still Get a Staggeringly Unfair College Admissions Advantage

Legacy admissions — giving children of alumni preference in the admissions process — has a long history in American higher education. Kids often follow their parents to the same school, frequently applying with the hope that they'll get a favorable look. 

How much of a boost do they get?  A 2011 study of 30 elite institutions found that the children of undergraduate alumni ("primary legacies") were, on average, 45.1% more likely to get in.

An earlier study by Princeton's Thomas Espenshade found that the legacy advantage was equivalent to a 160-point swing on an SAT score. 

That's not a tiebreaker between equally qualified applicants; it's a massive advantage. That's particularly clear at the Ivies: 

Harvard's legacy admissions rate hovers around 30%
For Princeton's class of 2015, 33% of legacy applicants were admitted.
Yale says it admits 20 to 25% of legacy applicants.

Keep in mind, those legacy admissions rates are self-reported.  

Yes, keep in mind, those legacy admissions are self-reported. You might say, but those are the Ivies, the Michigan is a public university. 

Selective public universities, including the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia favor legacies as well. 

There's some evidence that the practice has declined. The proportion of legacy admissions is lower than it used to be. In 1958, the legacy admissions rate was 70%. 

Now, that’s interesting.  The proportion of legacy admissions is lower than it used to be.  Do y0u suppose that’s due to affirmative action?

Legacy applicants tend to be white and wealthy. Legacy admissions therefore contribute to the rich kid problem at elite schools. Underrepresented minorities make up about 12.5% of the applicant pool at selective schools. They make up only 6.7% of the legacy pool.

So 6 members of the Roberts’ court have ruled that wealth and privilege not diversity will be the determining factor in college admissions.  Maybe the U.S. will get back to the 1958 legacy admission rate of 70% for the rich and powerful.

By Patricia Baeten 

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