It was a big week for SCOTUS decisions, and an even bigger one for the impact one of those decisions will have on college admissions, if not now then someday soon. While the court did not overturn the U Michigan Law School case, which allows for race to be considered in the admissions process, and SCOTUS "punted" the case back down to the lower courts, there is something worthy of note in the decision.
The Supreme Court wrote in its decision that colleges and universities need to review their affirmative action policies more carefully, and apply greater scrutiny to the application of such policies. Lower courts should no longer just "rubber stamp" a school's desire to consider race in the application process. This means that a school has to show that there is no other effective and meaningful tool for them to bring diversity to a campus other than considering race in the application process. The lower court did not do this, so SCOTUS sent the case back to see whether UT could figure out how to create a diverse campus another way. Officials from UT stated after the decision was announced that they had no intention of changing their policies for admissions any time soon.
I honestly don’t know how else a campus community can be representative of the diverse country we reside in without considering race. How else would a college be able to identify students of color if not through self-identification? Economic diversity is easier to achieve; just give academically qualified students enough institutional gift aid, not loans, to enable them to attend. Will underrepresented minority students have to come up with another way to identify their status as such? Will the new Common App question asking if students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it be the place to self-identify?
Time will tell, as will future cases heard by lower courts, whether there is another way to assure diversity on campus. I am not confident there is. For the moment, though, as campuses nationwide better reflect the colors of our citizens than they ever have before, I cannot think of a better way to improve the settings in which we teach the next generation of leaders. Can you?