Inside the affirmative action debate

It’s an issue that has been a debate for years. Now, it’s up to the highest court.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 12:05 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether colleges and universities can use race-conscious admissions programs for new students.

It’s an issue that has been a debate for years. Now, it’s up to the highest court.

Affirmative action is defined as “a set of procedures designed to; eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future. Applicants may be seeking admission to an educational program or looking for professional employment. In modern American jurisprudence, it typically imposes remedies against discrimination on the basis of (at the very least) race, creed, color, and national origin.”

The legal fight, which involves admissions policies from the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest public university, and Harvard, the oldest private institution, came before a Supreme Court that has been dramatically reshaped since it last considered the issue just six years ago. And over just under five hours of arguments in the two cases, members of the six-justice conservative bloc expressed skepticism about allowing universities to continue considering race as a factor in admissions.

Nine states already have banned affirmative action. They are California, Washington, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Idaho.

California voters banned affirmative action in 1996. According to an EdSource analysis of California State University and University of California student enrollment data from 1996 through 2018, that ban “hurt the enrollment of Black, Latino and Native American students in California’s public universities.” That study showed that Black and Native American student enrollment drastically declined despite higher high school graduation rates during that time period. Latino enrollment “closely resemble their share of the high school graduating class.”

During the Supreme Court hearing, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett questioned whether universities would ever reach a point where they no longer need to consider racial preferences in pursuit of diversity in higher education.

A decision is expected in June 2023.