Whither Fisher?

Glenn Ricketts

That’s the question discussed in this piece by Richard Kahlenberg today in IHE.

“Fisher” of course refers to Fisher v. University of Texas, a major affirmative action case currently under deliberation by the US Supreme Court.  Recall that we’ve signed on to an amicus brief filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation asking that the court reconsider and hopefully discard the race-based preferences so widely used in college admissions.  As we robustly re-affirmed at our recent national conference, NAS has opposed group preferences of any kind since our founding, and we’re not changing.  No preferences based on group attributes of any kind, period. 

Kahlenberg, like the rest of us, can’t say for sure what the Court’s decision will be – there’s probably a better chance of guessing the current papal conclave’s choice of a new pope, than anticipating the contours of what will probably be a closely divided outcome.  But  Kahlenberg also ventures that many college presidents are complacently optimistic if they think that the Court will simply affirm the status quo.  He himself doesn’t believe that the Court will toss racial considerations out of the admissions process en bloc, but concludes that it will likely insist that college admissions offices exhaust all possible race-neutral options first, with actual race-based considerations as the very last resort. 

That sounds reasonable but, as our friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity notes in the comments thread, most schools will probably give brief lip service to race-neutral policies – oh, we tried that, it didn’t work – and then jump right to the straight quotas that they’ve been practicing and denying for several decades. 

I join with Roger in hoping that the Supreme Court goes all the way, and simply outlaws racial preferences across the board.  But given the brazen dishonesty that’s been standard procedure in college admissions offices for such a long time, I have to wonder if even that outcome would make much of a difference in what they actually do.  I hope that we at least have the chance to find out.

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