Boston University students and professors expressed mixed feelings about the upcoming race-based affirmative action case involving the University of Texas, which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear on Wednesday.
Although the decision in the case will only affect public universities, a number of people in the BU community said they were unsure about how race should affect the college admissions process.
“I am thinking about the experience of the students being accepted,” said Liah Greenfeld, a sociology professor. “I feel very bad for them. They can never take the credit for being accepted. Beyond all of the considerations of fairness, I think it’s a very cruel position for those students being accepted that way.”
Nine years after the Supreme Court ruled college admissions could use race in accepting diverse student bodies, the Court is reevaluating its decision.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday for the race-based affirmative action case. Since the Supreme Court case only affects public universities, Boston University will not be impacted directly, officials said.
“This case is about public universities and thus has no direct effect on BU,” said School of Law professor Jack Beermann in an email interview. “Private universities are not state actors covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which is the provision under which the Texas affirmative action policy is being challenged.”
A Century Foundation report by Richard Kahlenberg released Wednesday stated affirmative action plans based on class, not race, might provide more diversity to universities’ student bodies than affirmative action.
David Glick, a political science professor, said it is plausible to still have a reasonable amount of diversity with neutral admissions.
“I think many people support the idea of realistically taking into account the different opportunities people have had,” he said.
However, Greenfeld said students who are not accepted because of affirmative action are also denied a right.
“This policy creates two groups of suffering individuals,” Greenfeld said. “Both are denied their right of being accepted on merit.”
The question of having reasonable racial diversity on campus with race-neutral admissions denies African Americans, in particular, any merit, she said.
“The question itself must be offensive to minorities,” she said. “We should believe anyone of a minority group who wants to be a student has enough intelligence to be accepted.”
Race is not a determining factor in BU admissions, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
“Applicants are looked at holistically,” he said. “We have a very diverse, strong undergraduate class.”
Students said affirmative action is unfair, but has certain benefits in diversifying the student body.
“I see how people can think of it as unfair, giving people an unfair advantage,” said Jade Perkins, a College of Engineering junior. “But at the same time, I understand school’s wanting diversity on campus.”
Zack Robinson, a School of Management freshman, said his high school was a magnet school, so he was accustomed to a ratio of 30 percent Caucasian students and 70 percent minority students. “There’s no doubt that diversity in a university is important,” he said. “The question is, to what extent should that diversity be forced or coincidental, and that’s where I don’t know the answer.”
College of Communication sophomore Paloma Parikh said even though she believes race-based affirmative action is unfair, she still wrote about her racial background in her college essay.
“It’s something I talked about in my essay, not really to get me in, but just because it’s a big part of my identity,” she said.
Robinson said it is difficult to decide if diversity is more important than equal admissions.
“Judging the value of a diverse school versus the value of a more equal admissions process is like apples and oranges because they are both important in separate ways,” he said.
Applicants should not be able to get into college based solely on their race, he said.
“A university needs to have standards,” Robinson said. “You need smart, hardworking, willing people. My hope would be that they would find other ways to bring diversity into a school because it shouldn’t hurt non-minority groups.”