Professor Daniel Volchok
November 8, 2012
Race-Based Admission in Higher Education
In 1992, a young White woman by the name of Cheryl Hopwood applied to the University of Texas Law School. Although she had above average LSAT scores and a good undergraduate grade point average, she was denied admission. Four years later Hopwood, along with four other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas Law School for reverse discrimination (Savage). This was the first case to challenge race-based admissions since the 1978 Supreme Court Ruling that race could be used as a factor in considering admissions. Furthermore, the Hopwood case has pushed the critical examination of affirmative action into the forefront. Affirmative action is a term used to describe the laws and social policies that are implemented as a means to alleviate discrimination that limits opportunities of various racial groups (Crosby p. 587). It was created to end discrimination and promote equal opportunity in education and work (Crosby p. 588). In order to increase the amount of minorities on college campuses, universities began to consider race as a factor in their admissions decisions. The decision to include race as a factor in admissions is controversial. Many arguments for affirmative action in college admissions argue on behalf of the universities’ goals and aspirations. However, college students also gain educational benefits from race-based admissions policies. The first case to challenge race-based admissions was the 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (Bowen and Bok p. 10). However, recently there have been many lawsuits filed against universities’ admissions policies. For example, in addition to the 1996 case of Hopwood v. State of Texas, the University of Michigan was also sued. In 1997, the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a Washington, DC based civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan on behalf of two White students who were denied admission to the school's undergraduate program (Pettypiece). The CIR also filed a lawsuit on behalf of three other White students who were denied admission to the University of Washington. Many of these lawsuits claim that the plaintiffs were denied admission under a system that gave preferences to some groups of students because of their race (Pettypiece). People who opposed race-admission policies have several reasons why they feel this type of policy should be banned. One reason is a moral argument that society should be colorblind. Opponents argue that focusing on racial difference is wrong and can aggravate racial tensions on campus (Bowen and Bock p. 56). Ward Connerly, a University of California Board of Regents member and opponent to race-based admissions, states that this type of policy perpetuates racial inequality (Connerly B6). However, this argument assumes that all people are treated equally and judged on merit (Dovidio and Gaertner p. 4). It fails to address that discrimination and racism still exists today (Dovidio and Gaertner p. 6). Another argument against race-based admissions is that less qualified students are admitted into college in order to fill a quota. Opponents argue that admitting minority students who are less qualified is more costly and requires universities to implement more remedial programs and special services to help these students adjust to college (Altbach, Lomotey, and Kyle p. 460). However, the assumption that minority students are less qualified and require more remedial services is a racial stereotype. In fact, most minority students who apply to colleges are highly qualified (Bowen and Bock p. 19). Furthermore, race-based admission is not a quota system. It is a system that takes racial background into account in conjunction with many other criteria (Bowen and Bock p. 24). There are many other...