Case on affirmative action shines spotlight on power and opportunity

I am a student. I am representative of a minority group. I am also aspiring to be an attorney. So, when it comes to assessing a Supreme Court case on affirmative action in university admissions, especially after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, my eyes and ears are wide open. When it comes down to it, it’s all about power. The balance of power tied to opportunity.

The power of nine justices. The power to make major legal decisions that will affect the estimated 323 million people in this country. The power to change the social policies of this nation, in this case, where race matters. And when one of these residing justices dies, cases that have not been voted on are up in the air until a new justice is approved or the lower court decides on the case. The case where race matters comes down to looking at the actual policy. The affirmative action policy in terms of admis
sions states that an organization such as a public university can consider race as one of the many other factors in enrollment.

In this case, the Supreme Court can have a narrow ruling, where it only affects Texas or a broad ruling, where public universities across the nation can be directly affected. The Court’s power comes into play where opportunity can be provided to minority groups who tend to deal with discrimination, but also to universities that seek racial diversity.

Now, the focus becomes racial diversity. This nation is filled with discrimination and if there is an opportunity to combat this, especially for students, then why not provide this opportunity?

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, is about how the university’s affirmative action policy raises the issue of racial preference in terms of admission. According to the Supreme Court of the United States website, the case was argued in 2012, when the University adopted an affirmative action program which considers race as one of the many factors in enrollment. Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian, applied and was rejected, and so she sued the school for rejecting her based on racial preference. While the courts ruled in favor of the university in 2013, they also stated that their affirmative action program needed to pass a strict scrutiny test. The case is being sent back to determine if the university’s program passed this test.

The university initially adopted a Texas Ten Percent Plan (TTP) which allows the top 10 percent of a high school class to have a higher likelihood of admissions. This plan usually applies to students from low-income segregated communities to promote racial diversity, Thomas Healy, professor at Seton Hall Law, said, in a phone interview. Healy added that the university argues that diversity is not fully reflected through the plan and if all Black and Latino students come from only these type of communities then Texas would argue that the plan doesn’t capture other minority-economic groups, which is why they want to adopt an affirmative action program.

I think if the goal is to promote racial diversity while at the same time providing opportunity, then they should issue a broad ruling in which public universities nationwide adopt an affirmative action policy. They have the power and so it comes down to providing this chance. “Seton Hall is private so it is not govern by the equal protection clause so the decision that the Supreme Court makes regard
ing this case will not directly affect private universities, but they can be indirectly affected,” Healy said.

“If they strike down Texas and have a broad ruling, it’s a question of the wide and rippling effects on other universities,” Jonathon Hafetz, associate professor at Seton Hall Law, said, referring to racial diversity.

If they were to have a broad ruling against the program then it would have consequences as there might be a lack of racial diversity at universities. It might rob minority students of opportunity and the universities whose goal is to have racial diversity.

This is all about power, where the nation’s social and political climate are influenced by justices. But, in this case, it also means opportunity.

Nisha Desai is a junior journalism major from Woodland Park, NJ. She can be reached at

Author: Nisha Desai

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