So, I’ve been following the legal action around the Supreme Court’s decision for University of Texas, and when the highest court in the land voted 4 to 3 to uphold an affirmative-action ruling, I was like, phew!
I confess, I had a bad moment there, and the fact that the vote was so close is cause for alarm. Still, we dodged this particular bullet, and diversity advocates live to fight another day.
Essentially, the Supreme Court was trying to decide whether or not the University of Texas should stop considering an applicant’s race as a factor in admissions. Or, when it comes to college admissions, what’s more important, economic class or race?
I would argue that both are not only important, they are often related. But the bottom line is, putting the axe to affirmative action would have been an epic blow to campus diversity, and ultimately to workforce diversity.
Fortunately, the big dogs agree. According to a Washington Post piece published yesterday Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, essentially said that diversity justifies “some intrusion on the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, which generally forbids the government from making decisions based on race:
“A university is in large part defined by those ‘intangible qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness,’… it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”
Well said, Justice Kennedy. It’s a sad fact, but some diversity problems just aren’t going to fix themselves without legal intervention. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but I believe in keeping my feet firmly on the ground. That means, let’s deal with the reality of the situation, and while change is happening, without a little legal strong arming now and then, that change simply will not happen fast enough to do any good for those of us currently living.
Colleges are the accepted lever people need to advance into the workplace and gain access to better paying jobs, which leads to economic stability. Economic stability leads to progress and advancement on multiple fronts. Colleges need diversity, just as the workplace needs diversity, for all the reasons I discuss each week: to reflect the needs of the global community, to give voice to the arbitrarily and unfairly disenfranchised, the list goes on.
At the end of the day, education is a key tool in the minorities’ arsenal. That’s why this win is momentous. Still, this victory hasn’t lulled this particular diversity advocate into a false sense of security. It would be a mistake to think that now affirmative action is safe. Diversity advocates must remain vigilant because I doubt very seriously whether this particular fight is over.
The vote was narrow, which means defeat was nipping firmly at diversity’s heels. So while we can breathe a sigh of relief, it would behoove diversity stakeholders to begin preparations for the next fight – it is coming.