Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The question of diversity in education once again before SCOTUS

Fifty-eight years ago, the Brown v. Board of Education decision officially desegregated schools in the United States. This week, the nation will hear arguments in what is sure to be another landmark case that could challenge what Brown v. Board of Education sought to achieve half a century ago. This time the case deals with higher education admission policies and the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, which ruled that race could, in fact, play a role in the college admissions process.

What's the case? Fisher v. University of Texas. The Supreme Court will soon hear opening arguments is this case, which challenges the UT's affirmative action policies that consider a student’s ethnic and racial background in addition to their academic achievement, leadership potential, extra-curricular activities and talents.

As the Supreme Court considers this case, it is impossible to ignore the huge impact diversity has on college campuses, work places and day-to-day interactions among people. In "10 Reasons Why We Need Diversity on College Campuses," author Sophia Kerby argues that diversity on college campuses is crucial:

"Learning with people from a variety of backgrounds encourages collaboration and fosters innovation, thereby benefiting all students. Research shows that the overall academic and social effects of increased racial diversity on campus are likely to be positive, ranging from higher levels of academic achievement to the improvement of near- and long-term intergroup relations."

The constitutional question going before the Supreme Court today poses a major threat to diversity in higher education. Instead of taking modest steps forward to ensure that diversity is maintained and improved at the college and university level, the overruling of Grutter v. Bollinger would take our nation's colleges and universities a few steps backwards.

As we follow this case, these are some of the essential questions we're asking: What can be done to ensure fair access to higher education? How can we make steps in the right direction to ensure diversity is reflected in our schools and places of work? What are you wondering?

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