The Fisher oral argument: Race-neutral alternatives

October 03, 2012 | By RALPH KASARDA

Next week, in Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court will consider whether the university’s admissions policies and procedures which grant preferences to students of certain races and ethnic backgrounds violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Colleges grant racial preferences in admissions to increase the enrollment of minority students.  Colleges that do so claim the policies are required to remedy past discrimination, or to ensure a diverse student population.  It is debatable whether these interests – as important as they may be – can justify government racial classifications that ultimately result in discrimination against students of the non-preferred race.  These policies may even result in academic mismatch, and harm the very students they are intended to benefit.  Putting that debate aside, another important question is whether race-conscious admissions policies are necessary at all.

A new report, by the Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, indicates that states employing race-neutral policies have been largely successful in increasing minority enrollment.  Kahlenberg found that most colleges that used only race-neutral alternatives produced as much diversity as policies that considered race.  An article summarizing the report can be found here.