What Would Happen if….. The Supreme Court Abolished Affirmative Action?

 By: Kevin Mensah

Trump with his past Conservative Supreme Court appointments, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, have secured Republican influence on the Supreme Court. Aside from Supreme Court nominations, in one term, Trump appointed 54 federal appellate judges which is just one judge short from the 55 Obama appointed in two terms. In the process, Trump altered the majority of Democratic appointees to a majority of Republican appointees. But what does this mean for American citizens? On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 7-2 decision, discarding the federal Constitutional right by the 14th Amendment, federally protecting the right to abortion. States are now permitted to set their own policies banning or protecting the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy..

The Supreme Court is now debating on terminating affirmative action. An early 1960 term coined by President John F. Kennedy, affirmative action was designed to prohibit discrimination in the workplace. It transitioned from the workplace to educational settings in the late 1960s, providing minorities and students from underrepresented populations the opportunity to be considered for placement amongst prestigious institutions across the country. The majority of schools in America consider the applicant’s test scores, transcripts, extracurricular activities, and the student’s personal statement while also considering the student’s background, including race and socioeconomic class which  contribute to campus diversity. According to a study by the Civil Rights Project, “Past affirmative action bans decreased Black student enrollment by as much as 25% and Hispanic student enrollment by nearly 20%. These bans discourage minority applicants and don’t even result in better academically credentialed student bodies.” The Civil Rights Project additionally reported that SAT math scores decreased by 25 points after bans.

Another system that can impact college admissions are legacy admissions. Legacy admissions are defined as the practice of a college giving preferential admissions treatment to the children of its alumni. A study of 30 elite colleges discovered that students are 45% more likely to get into a highly selective college if they’re considered primary legacy. Harvard, a holder of this practice, had 29% of its class of 2021 qualify for legacy status. However, nearly 70% of legacy applicants to Harvard are white. 

Asian Americans across the country have voiced their concerns about Affirmative Action as unfair and discriminatory, by claiming it allows minorities with lower test scores and less extracurriculars to be prioritized over Asians simply because of their racial backgrounds. Many suggest that there will be an influx of Asian Americans accepted to schools if affirmative action were abolished. Dr. Nellie Tran is a psychology researcher who has studied Asian American Psychology including subtle forms of bias in higher education and workplaces. Her work was cited in the UT Austin Supreme Court Action Case, and she is also a signer on an Amicus Brief for the current Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case. She states that the cut down of holistic admissions would also negatively impact Asian Americans. “It’s important when we’re talking about affirmative action when we’re asking for holistic admissions policies and employment policies. Without it, most places would go for test score only admissions.” 

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “with test-only admissions, the share of White students at top colleges would rise from 66% to 75%; the combined share of Black and Latino students would decrease from 19% to 11%; and the share of Asian students would fall slightly, from 11% to 10%.” Their studies also suggest that Asian American applicants already benefit greatly from holistic admissions. They state, “In a test-only admissions system, 21% of Asian American students and 39% of non–Asian American students would lose their seats in the most selective colleges to students with higher test scores.”

We expect the Court’s final decision by June 2023. What are your thoughts on affirmative action? Is it fair? Unfair? Would the termination of this system be a positive or negative outcome?