Affirmative Action and Universities: What Every College President and Dean Needs to Know
November 14, 2022

On October 31st, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments pertaining to Affirmative Action. The anticipation surrounding these probable landmark cases is echoing throughout universities around the country. It is possible the rules are going to be different after this case is decided, and university leadership need to be ready to shore up diversity initiatives by quickly increasing pipeline activity.

1. The Supreme Court Cases of Harvard and UNC: A Summary

The core of these two landmark cases involves the issue of Affirmative Action. This refers to the system of regulations and procedures used by a government or organization to incorporate specific racial, ethnic, religious, or national minority groups in settings where they are underrepresented, such as employment and education.

In short, it’s a long-standing policy that allows colleges and universities to screen applicants based on race, among other factors, just as it uses other factors such as aptitude in music, science, or athletics, and even the fact that the applicant's parents attended the university. According to Harvard, race is taken into consideration in around 40% of U.S. colleges and universities during the admission process [1].

Affirmative Action has been upheld by the Supreme Court since 1978, in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, where the esteemed Court ruled that “that race could be considered as one of several admission factors including academic and extracurricular criteria but barred racial quotas [1].” 

Since then, the Court has adhered to this rule and added that each applicant must be assessed on a case-to-case basis but each time holistically considering the applicant’s race, among other qualifications.

The admissions process at Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) are currently being scrutinized by the courts. Several complaints were filed against these two universities alleging that Harvard discriminated against Asian American candidates and that UNC discriminated against white and Asian American applicants. 

Through a series of penalties summarized here, Asian American candidates had a lower chance of being admitted than white, Black, or Hispanic applicants with comparable qualifications, according to data from Harvard reported by Students for Fair Admissions [2]. According to UNC admissions statistics, preference of Black and Hispanic students over white and Asian American students was evident, and revealed "stark" racial discrepancies in acceptance rates among similarly qualified candidates [1]. 

Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA), through founder Edward Blum, claimed that UNC's procedures violated American law. There is also speculation that Harvard did not comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids racial discrimination in any program receiving federal funding. Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

2. Pipeline Programs Will Be Unaffected – and they work.

While several college and university admission policies may need to be reviewed, revised, and revamped depending on the outcomes of these cases, you can still rely on your current pipeline programs. 

Pipeline programs refer to those activities that are offered to college aspirants who face obstacles when applying to or enrolling in programs. Starting in secondary school and continuing through college and beyond, a student may participate in several programs. 

Interventions in the pipeline may take the form of tutoring, academic coursework, internship opportunities, and mentoring. The ultimate objective is to improve your academic abilities, inform you about the health professions, and/or familiarize you with the academic rigor found in a health professions institution. And they’ve proven effective. Results from a STEM program hosted by Columbia and Harvard showed a “2-8 percentage point jump between treatment and control groups in college graduation rates [3].”

3. It Is The Perfect Time To Work On Your Pipeline Programs

Pipeline programs are an effective way to support underrepresented student populations and prepare them for success. 

Colleges and universities can choose to offer face-to-face pipeline programs along with other alternative modes of content delivery that companies such as Amesite can help you with. Justice Elena Kagan said colleges "are the pipelines to leadership in our society. It might be military leadership. It might be business leadership. It might be leadership in the law. It might be leadership in all kinds of different areas. … If universities are not racially diverse … then all of those institutions are not going to be racially diverse, either [4]."

Through partnership with Amesite, Wayne State University launched Warrior TechSource. This program offers entirely online, on-demand courses with live instructors. The platform allows WSU to have a more effective means to upskill alumni and other professionals in emerging technologies. 

The courses are offered to learners wherever they are needed and include the most recent research on every subject. For working people who want to enhance their careers and stay relevant, it is the ideal solution.

Final Words

The Supreme Court is yet again facing a monumental task in the present. While this will certainly impact college and university admission policies in the future, we cannot hold our breath for the outcome. Developing your pipeline programs is a practical way to soften the blow of this issue’s impact.





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