Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fisher v. Univ. of Texas: How Entitlement Killed Affirmative Action

Yesterday, The Storyteller published an excellent post about the very sad state of affairs that is taking place today among young Black men in higher education.  One of the most interesting stats was the fact that there are so few Black men in college. On the heels of this report, we also learned that the Supreme Court has officially agreed to hear the case of Fisher v. University of Texas during its next term starting in October.  Abigail Noel Fisher is yet the latest White woman in a growing tradition of White women who feel that racial minorities have "taken their seat" when they were unable to get into the college of their choice.  (see also Barbara Grutter of the landmark case Grutter v. Bollinger and Jennifer Gratz of the landmark case Gratz v. Bollinger).  Even if we accept the premise that Affirmative Action ("AA") is unfair and has run its course, that still does not explain how AA - and only AA - is to blame for these women not being admitted into their respective universities.  

Take a look at the graphic above: we have (1) a daughter of an alumnus, (2) a son of a big financial donor to the school, (3) a student athlete, and (4) a student from a far away state.  With possibly the exception of the student athlete who trains every day, all of these groups are admitted in great numbers to colleges and universities every year not by the merit of their test scores, but by simply being born as who they are.  Yet for some strange reason, we don't see Supreme Court cases against legacy admits or any of the other categories which have nothing to do with academic merit.  So, as a threshold matter, it is difficult to see how Abigail Fisher, Barbara Grutter or Jennifer Gratz can specifically pinpoint that their admissions were denied solely and exclusively by the inclusion of racial minorities.

Speaking of test scores, the true elephant in the room which tends to be glossed over in these cases is the merit of the plaintiffs themselves.  Consider the following:  Jennifer Gratz applied to the University of Michigan with a GPA of 3.80 out of 4.00 and an ACT score of 25 out of 36.  As our Michigan alumnus, Shady Grady, can tell you, these are hardly the type of impressive numbers that would allow somebody to claim a seat at the Big Blue.  Barbara Grutter applied to the University of Michigan School of Law - which is a Top 10 law school, by the way - with a GPA of 3.80 out of 4.00 and an LSAT of 161 out of 180.  If I may add a bit of context, I personally scored a 162 (1 point higher than Grutter) on the LSAT, but I wouldn't dream of filing a law suit against U. Mich Law if they sent me a rejection letter.  It is, after all, a top 10 law school which literally rejects thousands of highly qualified applicants every year.  And last but not least, the latest plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, applied to the University of Texas - a highly ranked flagship state university - with a GPA of 3.59 out of 4.00 and an SAT score of 1180 out of 1600.  Need we say more?

Nevertheless, even if these ladies had scored perfect test scores and perfect GPA's across the board, the point that opponents to AA need to understand is that perfect test scores still do not entitle these ladies to a seat at the university of their choice.  As the Law School Admission Council so eloquently stated in their amicus curiae brief in Grutter v. Bollinger:
"It has been the consistent position of LSAC that there is no entitlement to a seat in law school, regardless of one’s test scores and undergraduate grades.”
Thus, it stands to reason that even if AA did not exist, neither Barbara Grutter, Jennifer Gratz, or Abigail Fisher would have been admitted into their respective schools.  Again, these schools reject thousands of qualified applicants every year, both Black and White. In 2004, for example, 422 Black students with LSAT scores of 150 or more were denied admission to ALL (as in 100%) of the ABA-accredited schools to which they applied (source).  Yet unlike Fisher, Grutter or Gratz, these Black students did not feel entitled to bring law suits against the schools which rejected them.

When Fisher v. University of Texas makes its way to the Supreme Court this fall, make no mistakes about it, the conservative Roberts Court will strike down its 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger which allows universities to consider race as one of several factors in creating a diverse student body.  With the exclusion of Justice Elena Kagan who has recused herself due to her role as Solicitor General in 2010 when the government filed briefs in the Fisher case, this outcome is all but assured.  AA will finally be wiped off the books in higher education.  But it won't be killed because we've achieved any sort of reasonable level of racial diversity in our colleges or universities (see yesterday's post) and it won't be killed because it's unfair to Whites (Whites make up 72.6% of the U.S. population yet make up 75.2% of all college/grad students).  No, instead, it will be killed because when things don't go the way they're supposed to for certain people who have a strong sense of entitlement, they need somebody to blame.  

1. Should the government tell universities and colleges how to run their admissions programs?
2. Do the plaintiffs in these cases suffer from an unreasonable sense of entitlement?
3. Has AA run its course?
4. Is AA unfair to Whites?
5. Anybody care to take a stab at how the Court will rule in Fisher v. U. Texas?
6. Assuming the Court kills AA, how will this affect our country?
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