By Edgar Palomino
Edgar Palomino is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying political science.
In 2007, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin, arguing that the institution’s consideration of race as a factor in its admissions review process disadvantaged her and other Caucasian applicants . On June 23rd, 2015, the court ruled in favor of the defendant, UT. The majority opinion argues that the ten percent affirmative action plan that UT continues to use is constitutional. However, the majority was hardly overwhelming, with the decision being 4-3 .
On the contrary, the dissenting opinions are disheartening to say the least. Justice Thomas and others attacked the notion that diversity at universities had any beneficial effect: “a ‘faddish theory’ that racial discrimination may produce ‘educational benefits’”. Justice Thomas also stated his desire to overrule the ruling in Grutter V. Bollinger (2003). The Grutter ruling reaffirmed the constitutionality of racial considerations as factors in universities admissions processes, so long as the programs fulfilled a “compelling purpose” and was “necessary” to do so .
Despite the bafflement that Justice Thomas and other dissenters seem to have felt at the notion, diversity within student bodies in higher education, especially at elite institutions, represents a “compelling purpose”. For the purposes of the case and arguments at hand, diverse student bodies build understanding across ethnic and socioeconomic strata, producing superior citizens and employees. From the corridors of the military to the halls of corporate America, the benefits of having diverse members are stressed . And if these members were highly educated and highly skilled, it would be better for the economy and for the country. However, minority applications to higher education are low; and acceptances are lower whenever affirmative action is rolled back. Affirmative action is needed to generate even the meager numbers that are currently being observed. The irony is that affirmative action does not displace legions of Caucasian students as many claim. William Bowen and Derek Bok (former presidents of Princeton and Harvard, respectively) found that “if all selective universities implemented a race-blind admissions system, the probability of being admitted for a white student would only go from 25 percent to 26.2 percent.”
Building understanding and empathy is also a “compelling interest”. By constantly attacking affirmative action, some groups are also attacking a key vehicle for strengthening the social cohesion in the U.S, and a vehicle for social mobility. Many students come from homogenous areas, and higher education is their main opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, ideas, and expand their horizons towards a wider worldview. The loss of affirmative action may well lead to a decrease of such interactions. That is not the vision that resounds from the Federalist Papers, which gave the venerated Constitution a fighting chance at ratification. There, a clear vision of the United States resounds. It is one where legal obstacles, such as a religious test favored by Jefferson, were removed, allowing this great nation to utilize the diversity it had. Madison understood the power that diversity afforded this country; forgetting this would be to forfeit a beautiful possibility for our future.
 Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, ET Al. 570 U.S 14-981 (2016)
 “Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin” SCOTUSblog.com. Accessed July 22, 2016.
 Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, ET Al. 570 U.S 14-981 (2016) Pg. 1 Dissenting
 Applewhite, Scott J. 2015. “Is Affirmative Action Finished?” The Atlantic. Accessed July 22nd, 2016.
 Bollinger, Lee. “Seven Myths About Affirmative Action in Universities” Columbia University. edu. Accessed July 22, 2016.
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