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The Supreme Court's "Affirmative Non-Action" ruling

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    In listening to pundits slice and dice the Supreme Court's 7-1 decision yesterday on Fischer versus the University of Texas, some claim it to be a liberal victory since the court did not rule against the constitutionality of Affirmative Action while others see it as a nudge towards more conservatism in that they asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to "take another look at the case," which implies that the hurdles for applying Affirmative Action will be tougher in the future. The L.A. Times summed up the opinions:

    L.A. Times, June 24, 2013: Supreme Court takes middle ground on affirmative action

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the lone dissenter, saying she would have upheld the Texas policy. This would have been consistent with past court rulings.

    As the L.A. Times reported, "University of Texas President Bill Powers said he was encouraged by the ruling, noting the court had preserved precedents dating to 1978 that permit affirmative action. "Today's ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies.""

    Conservatives noted Justice Kennedy's words that it "was no longer clear that the university needed to give an edge to black or Latino applicants to ensure a significant percentage of minorities on campus. The judges who review the Texas policy "must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity," he said in University of Texas vs. Fisher..."If a nonracial approach" could work to bring about diversity, "then the university may not consider race," he said.

    Justices Scalia and Thomas, consistent with past opinions, said they would have ended affirmative action if they could have, but still voted with the majority. Justice Thomas, a beneficiary of Affirmative Action, wrote a separate opinion denouncing it. From the Huffington Post:

    Huffington Post, June 24, 2013: Clarence Thomas Compares Affirmative Action To Slavery, Segregation In Opinion

    "In a fiery concurring opinion Monday, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the University of Texas at Austin's admissions policy amounted to discrimination and compared the school's affirmative action program to slavery and segregation.

    "Slaveholders argued that slavery was a 'positive good' that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life," Thomas wrote in his separate opinion on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. "A century later, segregationists similarly asserted that segregation was not only benign, but good for black students.""


    I would disagree with Justice Thomas as a reason fro scrapping Affirmative Action, but I can appreciate that those that have benefited from Affirmative Action indeed are often stigmatized that "they didn't earn their admission." But on this last point I can point to another form of Affirmative Action...college admission by privilege. The two most notable examples are George Bush and John McCain. Both had dubious academic credentials, good enough to perhaps get them into some lesser known colleges but not good enough for Yale, in Bush's case, or the Naval Academy in McCain's case.

    McCain's graduate final class ranking from the Naval Academy was 894 out of 899. Had he not had a father and grandfather who served as admirals in the Navy, John McCain would never have been admitted to the Academy, in my opinion. Furthermore he was a rather bad pilot crashing training planes. Nevertheless, he has capitalized on his capture by the North Vietnamese to reinvent himself as a "hero," which he used to eventually become a rather poor Senator and candidate for President.

    There are so many other people like John McCain and George Bush that have used their name and privilege to get into prestigious universities and academies. Why don't we also call that "Affirmative Action?"