Until we become race-neutral, keep affirmative action in place | NevadaAppeal.com

Until we become race-neutral, keep affirmative action in place

Jessica Smallman

When it comes to college admissions, few are quite sure how universities make their decisions.

But Barbara Grutter, a 43-year-old law school applicant at the University of Michigan, felt quite sure in her case the decision was made on race rather than ability.

Affirmative action is the elusive term that is to blame for this situation. Before I take my stance on the issue, though, here is a quick background of affirmative action as used in college admissions.

— On Sept. 24, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire and promote more racial minorities. This order eventually began to influence college admission decisions.

— In 1978, Bakke sued the Regents of the University of California. As a white male, he had been denied admission to the medical school for two consecutive years. In short, this led to the ambiguous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that setting aside a number of predetermined places for qualified minority applicants does not violate the Constitution.

— In 1995, in the case of Gratz v. Bollinger, Gratz, a white female, was denied acceptance to the University of Michigan. She sued, claiming the university used two separate admissions procedures in order to accept a predetermined number of minorities.

–EIn 1996, in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, Grutter, also a white female, sued the University of Michigan’s law school after suspecting reverse discrimination was to blame for her rejection.

— In December 2002, the Supreme Court decided to hear both cases in order to provide a clear ruling on the use of affirmative action programs in universities.

— By June 2003, the Supreme Court will reach a verdict on the cases.

The Supreme Court has a difficult decision to make, and the pressure is on for them to take a clearer stance than was taken in the Bakke ruling.

In my opinion, the goal with this ruling is to ensure that we, as a country, don’t take a step backward in our current status of equality while eliminating feelings of discrimination on both sides.

This is a fine but maybe impossible line to walk.

President George W. Bush recently has spoken on this issue.

Each time he takes a different side.

As of Jan. 15, Bush planned to side with Gratz and Grutter against the University of Michigan.

But according to an article entitled “Bush Honors King” by Sean Loughlin on Jan. 21, the president criticized Michigan’s policy as a “quota system.”

Although he speaks about his commitment to diversity in campaign speeches, Bush’s actions speak louder than words on this issue. As governor of Texas, Bush abolished the affirmative action program at the University of Texas Law School. The result? The amount of minorities enrolled dropped 35 percent between 1996 and 2001, to about the same level of diversity seen at the school in the 1960s.

Personally, I believe that our president is not only being hypocritical, but he is also supporting the wrong side.

I don’t think racial quotas are fair in the process of college admissions, but I also don’t believe it is wrong to consider an applicant’s race.

As a country, we have not made enough progress to go to color-blind admissions. Maybe in 50 years, things will be different and the color of one’s skin will make no difference in the world.

But right now, we need to be patient.

Colin Powell summed up my beliefs in one sentence, “I wish it was possible for everything to be race-neutral in this country, but I’m afraid we’re not yet at that point where things are race-neutral.”