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October 10th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Columbia University's Bollinger says SCOTUS affirmative action case involves 'an unusual set of facts'

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. The University of Texas today, an important case that will decide whether the University's race-conscious admissions policy violates the rights of some white applicants.

Specifically, the case concerns Abigail Fisher, a UT applicant who was denied admission and is arguing that the University's policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it allows officials to consider race when making admission decisions.

At the University of Texas, the top 10% of each high school class statewide is granted admission automatically. For those below the top ten percent, like Abigail Fisher, who was in the 11th percent, the University uses what it calls a "holistic review," where race is one of many factors considered.

University President Bill Powers says that race doesn't get much weight in the consideration, and and didn't play a role in Fisher's rejection.

On Starting Point this morning, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who served as a defendant in two Supreme Court cases on affirmative action when he was president of the University of Michigan from 1996 to 2002, points out that the University of Texas' 10 percent policy is "unique to higher education."

"This case involves an usual set of facts," Bollinger says. "No other university uses that so it’s possible that the court just wants to look at that particular policy."

Bollinger also explains why he supports affirmative action, saying, "This is something that is part of the tradition in the United States of bringing people together from different life experiences to create a better, richer educational environment so all the students who are admitted to schools basically can do the work. We know that. They’re the very top students and within a pool of candidates and that’s how we select our student bodies."


Filed under: Affirmative action • Supreme Court
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. MasterWooten

    I think current stats state that there are just under 9000 post secondary institutions nation-wide with an average of about 115 per state. We also have around 20-22 million folks in or seeking to enter into post-secondary studies on either part-time or full-time basis. Now what we have at play are Ivy League institutions, Private Institutions, top-tier Public Institutions, lower-tier Public Institutions and non-acredited instutions normally referred to as universities. The rest are colleges. With all of this choice and knowing that Affirmative Action usually involves top-tier Public Institutions, do we really need to be using this policy knowing that it is a near certainty that students who wish to take up post secondary education, can gain admittance to a college or university somewhere in America even if they don't get accepted to their first choices of institution?

    October 11, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. student

    affirmative action is a joke.....another cop out by a select group in our society because they are inept at raising responsible citizens......is there any wonder when you look out our ancestry this groups originating country are still acting like cavemen....and living like it too

    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sarah

    The problem with UT's policy, is that they penalize the schools with higher amounts of bright children. It isn't just there, it's all around the country. That is why many schools have started to eliminate class ranks. Where I live, parents are so competetive and pushy, that they have their kids with tutors in every subject just so the kid will stay ahead. It's too much stress, and is getting too much. If you are only admitting the top 10% of a school where 50% of the kids are excelling, it is creating a race to the bottom situation.

    Similarly, the students who are benefitting from affirmative action do not do well once they are admitted to school. They are not as prepared and drop out of college at much higher rates. This continues into graduate and professional school programs as well.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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