GOOD

College Admissions and Affirmative Action: In Texas it's Still Legal

A court says the University of Texas at Austin can consider race as an admissions factor. With college admission so competitive, are they right?

The affirmative action debate is back in the hot seat after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the use of race as an admissions factor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Judge Patrick E. Higgenbotham wrote in the majority opinion that affirmative action is not unconstitutional and does not conflict with Texas' current policy of accepting all students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes into the state's public universities. In an ironic twist, this same federal appeals court banned the University of Texas in 1996 from using race as an admissions factor.

The current ruling upholds a 2008 lower-court decision that the University of Texas didn't violate the civil rights or constitutional right to equal protection of two white students, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, who were denied admission to U.T. Austin that year. The two women could have attended a less prestigious campus in the U.T. system and possibly transferred to Austin in their second year if they met the requirements to do so. Instead, they chose to sue.


U.T. Austin first bucked the affirmative action ban in 2005, a year after Texas became a "majority-minority" state. The state's 15 largest cities are majority non-white, with the two biggest, Dallas and Houston, being 92 percent and 95 percent minority. Given the shifting demographics, university officials realized that the 10 percent plan would not be able to supply Texas with the college educated workers the 21st century economy needs.

Along with admitting students through the 10 percent plan, the university also evaluates additional applicants through examining their class rank, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, community service, work experience, and race.

Since adding affirmative action back into the admissions mix, progress toward a more diverse, educated campus has been made. Of the class of 2014, 52 percent come from minority backgrounds, the most in U.T. Austin history. However, those numbers still don't fully reflect Texas' diversity. Although the state is 12 percent black, students from that background make up only 5 percent of enrollment. Likewise, almost 39 percent of the population is Latino, but only 23 percent of U.T. Austin students come from that demographic.

The court's decision also acknowledges that although the 10 percent plan "may have contributed to an increase in overall minority enrollment, those minority students remain clustered in certain programs, limiting the beneficial effects of educational diversity." In particular, the decision notes that the U.T. Austin school of social work has a higher percentage of students of color—almost 25 percent are Latino and over 10 percent are black. In contrast, the business school is only 14 percent Latino and 10 percent black, which doesn't bode well for the future economy of the state.

Nationwide, people of color are the fastest growing population of students of traditional college age. This means that the affirmative action debate that's happening in Texas is likely to happen in other states that currently ban the consideration of race in college admission, like Arizona, California, and Florida.

According to Rice University sociologist Steve Murdock, “Just 13 years from now we’re going to have a school system nationally in which a majority of the children are something other than non-Hispanic whites. This is not a Texas issue. It’s not a California issue. It’s a national issue. And how well we deal with it will determine how well we remain competitive economically.”

An attorney for the two plaintiffs, Bert Rein, has referred to U.T. Austin's use of affirmative action as, "A brute-force solution that says, ‘If I admit more minorities, I’m going to solve the problems,’ is not going to work."

An appeal of this latest court decision—and a trip to the Supreme Court—is likely.

photo (cc) via Flickr user goto10

Articles
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet