Once seen as untouched by political ideology, the Trump appointed conservative swing of the Supreme Court first signaled willingness to challenge Roe v. Wade and now it's coming for affirmative action. Appeals to Harvard's and the University of North Carolina's admissions processes will result in potentially fundamental challenge to what the trial judge in the UNC case found - that "UNC defendants produced substantial, credible, and largely uncontested evidence that it has made the deliberate decision to pursue the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity." This broad benefit to all is discarded by conservatives who dispense research that supposedly documents bias in admissions decisions. The Supreme Court's willingness to consider the Harvard and UNC case is a high stakes matter that "threatens the nation's ideals of equality," said the NAACP's Legal and Educational Defense Fund Director.
The educational benefit of diversity for everyone, students, families, and society at large, are vast at this time of contested ideologies. Overturning this commitment would do irreparable harm and would turn back the clock on progress that has been made and more yet to be realized. The irony is that "Students for Fair Admissions" filing with the Supreme Court claimed that affirmative action undermines advances achieved through the civil rights movement, although the opposition to affirmative action has been simmering since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Thirty-four briefs filed by conservative groups to support the lawsuit. As University of Houston law professor, Michael A. Olivas is quoted, "I... worried the day could again come when the court would revisit the issue. In those soul-searching moments, however, I never imagined a Supreme Court stacked by a President Trump, willing to act in an unprecedented and unprincipled way with the Senate to reverse Roe v. Wade - and now also perhaps affirmative action."
Accepting that minority students have historically and systematically been denied access to higher education is essential to understanding the intent of affirmative action. However, 3 out of 4 in a Pew survey oppose consideration of race in college admissions and with large numbers of Americans opposing affirmative action overall, it is up for grabs. A Chicago Tribune editorial suggested that a supply chain strategy might be a viable alternative to affirmative action. The idea is to provide consistent and broadly available support systems that address educational equity. The point of increasing student success for all is that privileged white students are more likely to have built in supports from family and advanced knowledge of how systems work, resulting in their accessing services and asking for help when they need it. A supply chain strategy to respond to a more diverse student population would offer visible and easily accessible support to all.
Due to higher performance on admissions tests and their academic records, the proportion of Asian American students at elite institutions grew dramatically in the early 1990s. It then leveled off and is now surging again. Although comprising a small percentage of U.S.A. students, the number and proportion of Asian American students is a complicating factor in conservatives' challenge to affirmative action. The question is "what is to be done if a specific demographic group has an inherent advantage in relation to selection criteria?"
My personal prediction is that after Roe v. Wade and affirmative action, free v. civil speech will be the next issue that will likely come to the Supreme Court. It's just a matter of time until conservative students are able to convince courts that they've been discriminated against in campus speech codes and speaker/lecturer selections. Academic conversation can and should be challenging and fostering campus environments that include many perspectives should be the goal.