Affirmative Action should be the last of the Department of Justice’s priorities

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Willow Yang/Staff

In 2008, Abigail Fisher, like many high school seniors, was rejected from her top college choice. Unlike most high school seniors, she responded by claiming she was discriminated against for being white, challenging the affirmative action policies of the University of Texas at Austin, in court. Fisher lost her case when the Supreme Court upheld UT Austin’s policies of considering race as one component of admissions considerations, but just one year after the ruling, affirmative action policies that aim to level the playing field are under threat again.

Donald Trump’s justice department intends to investigate and sue universities “deemed to discriminate against white applicants,” according to a document released by the New York Times on August 1. The project will not be run out of the U.S. Department of Education, which generally handles campus racial discrimination issues, but rather the Department of Justice’s front office, which is stacked with Trump’s political appointees. With this intention to direct energy and resources into undermining a Supreme Court decision, Trump continues to pander to the white fragility and insecurities that put him in the White House.

It’s easy to dismiss cases like Abigail Fisher’s as small and unimportant by focusing on her individual character flaws, but her case is representative of institutionalized white supremacy. Her case, which took years to conclude, was funded by Edward Blum, who actively searched for a white student to challenge affirmative action laws. He has orchestrated lawsuit after lawsuit challenging policies achieved by the Civil Rights Movement such as equal voting rights in his push for a “color-blind society.” White supremacy is ingrained in our institutions, including that of higher education, and the powerful continue to push for policies that intentionally and actively disadvantage people of color.

Abigail Fisher’s mediocre grades are in all likelihood what kept her from admission to UT Austin, but many white students are admitted to top universities on the basis of their families’ success and class. Schools like Trump’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, consider legacy as one factor of admission. Legacies are more than 45 percent more likely to be admitted to selective universities, so it’s certainly no coincidence that three of Trump’s children also were admitted to and attended the University of Pennsylvania. An Ivy League vice president of philanthropy vowed to look very closely at the application of a young woman whose father endowed a scholarship at $1 million, and the applicant was admitted. The admissions decisions of competitive universities have never been based solely on merit, especially for families like Trump’s.

But for some reason, Trump is not interested in addressing the forms of affirmative action that benefit white wealthy students. He is concerned that applicants of color may have unfair admission advantages, and not the fact that the percentage of UC Berkeley students who are Black dropped from 8 percent in 2006 to just 3 percent after the university stopped considering race. (Low enrollment of Black students at UC Berkeley is not due to a lack of unqualified applicants; 58 percent of Black students reject admission to UC Berkeley, largely because they feel isolated and unwelcome.) A 2009 Princeton study found that white students have an advantage over Asian students. The people who are quick to support outlawing consideration of race in admissions often fail to advocate for dismantling the systems of oppression that create inequity.

The Supreme Court ruled that a diverse student body has educational benefits that justify the use of race as an admissions consideration in a holistic evaluation while rejecting racial quotas. Applicants are more than their grades and GPA, and campuses are enriched by a student body with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. If public universities such as UC Berkeley are to serve a public mission, then addressing racism should start on campus.

Getting into college and succeeding after arrival is more difficult and competitive than ever, and every person, regardless of race or class, deserves a quality education. But the color-blind society promoted by people like Blum and Trump has never existed, and youth of color continue to face disproportionate barriers to education and opportunity. The Department of Justice should abandon its intention to punish universities for mitigating the challenges that students of color face and instead address the myriad of real injustices that exist in the country.

Camille Fassett is a senior at UC Berkeley studying environmental policy and journalism.

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  • lspanker

    The fact that this figure of black justice in not blindfolded and tips the scales pretty much lets you know what the writer thinks of the judicial process.

  • Killer Marmot

    Affirmative action policies means that you don’t want to be an Asian woman seeking admission to a top university, as your profile is deemed “over-represented” on Californian campuses and thus the bar is set higher for you.

    I guess Asian women make good sacrifices at the alter of political correction, as they tend not to make a fuss.

  • anon

    Caucasians represent 24% of freshmen admits for 2016**, and 40% the California population*. Asians represent 42% of freshman admits** for 2016, and 13% of the California population*. If UC Berkeley implements a racial quota, qualified, studious Asian students, many of whom come from the lower class, are going to pay a severe price.

    Are we willing to do that to the Asian population? If not, are you also unwilling to do it to the Caucasian population? In my view, the answer to both questions should be NO. Admissions should be based on merit, NOT race.

    It does not matter that Asians (or if it happened to be the case, Whites, or Blacks, or Hispanics) are overrepresented if each one of them as individuals deserve to be there and are top academic performers.

    (* 2010 census data, https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/cph-2-6.pdf)
    (** 2016 enrollment data, http://opa.berkeley.edu/uc-berkeley-fall-enrollment-data)

  • Purrelli

    Camille you have no idea what you are talking about. What “challenges” do people of color face when attending universities? They are the same ones White students face (Whites incidentally are the minority of the college students). You need to quit listening to all the victimization propaganda that the left thrives on and see affirmative action for what it really is: racism. It is the very definition of racisim – treating one set of people differently than another based on skin color.

    We often hear in various professions that “we need more minority doctors” or “we need more minority lawyers”. But if you are facing a life-threatening surgery, do you try and find the best Black doctor? Or if you are facing the death penalty, do you look for the best Hispanic defense lawyer? NO. You just want the best doctor, the best lawyer. You don’t care about skin color. Neither should these racist schools you are attending.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      stop basing your thoughts in logic, you idiot!

      • Purrelli

        OMG you are right! Somebody stop me before I make too much sense!

  • rychastings

    oh, yes im sure you think that asian americans dont deserve constitutional protections from discrimination in school admissions

  • Mike the bike

    what irony. A Californian screaming racism, while California is deemed the most racist state in the union by the Federal government based on statistics since 1965. California had to start importing white males because the minorities would not hire. California is a pi$$ hole.

  • T. N.

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Affirmative Action contradicts
    Dr. King’s vision. It “legalized discrimination” under the banner of equity. Poor and disadvantaged Asian Americans and Whites have no opportunity under affirmative action. These people are punished based on their skin color and ethnicity.

  • John Moseby

    Abolish “affirmative reaction”! The universities should be for Humans only!