US Supreme Court curbs consideration of race in university admissions

Not remotely surprised by this.

US Supreme Court curbs consideration of race in university admissions - US Supreme Court curbs consideration of race in university admissions | Financial Times via @FT

The whole thing is kinda dumb because in a sane world if there aren’t enough seats, you’d just make more of them.

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You are going to see admissions skew towards asians in a material way, with a drop for hispanics and african americans.

That to me spells political polarisation.

I was never a fan of AA (I don’t think its optimal to use race), but I just don’t see them moving to need-based admissions because it will be a lot costlier (higher need for funding and you also have to spend more time checking their applications).

The way schools do de-facto affirmative action after it gets struck down is by increasing the weight of class rank in admissions.

This works because American schools are highly segregated.

Lol schools are in no way interested in doing need-based admissions as the significant way to admit people. They exist to make money. A token number of poors get scholarships because that serves as a nice virtue-signaling marketing stunt but for the most part they are only interested in admitting students who can pay for tuition out of pocket.

Gotta stay solvent somehow $$$.

Here’s a link to the opinions and dissents

I’m still digesting it but highly recommend reading it; all of the justices and/or their staffs are excellent writers and I think there are a lot of complexities to the decision and the arguments worth taking a closer look at.

Notably I learned from the dissent that military academies are exempted from this decision which is a bizarre carve-out.



This is not going to be the boon in Asian admission ro elite schools that the asians propped up by conservatives think they are getting.

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I presume it will make it easier for Asians and whites to get admitted to selective programs and harder for blacks and Hispanics.

My Indian college roommate certainly had a lot to say against AA when she was applying to medical school.

Showed me the average MCAT score of admitted students, by race. Asians were on top, followed by non-Hispanic whites and I don’t recall the remaining order, but suffice it to say that an adequate MCAT score for an African-American and an Asian were not at all close to the same.

That’s a rather extreme example though, where there are MANY more qualified applicants than there are spaces.

At Podunk State U it may have an imperceptible difference since recruiting probably matters more than admissions in that instance.

That is a lot to read and digest. I’m not sure I’ll make the commitment to do so, but would be curious in anyone’s TL;DR take on it.

My hot take: colleges that are serious about diversity will very soon be developing questions/criteria pertaining to proxy variables, to (admittedly less-efficiently) achieve their desired result…and which will in a few years prompt another lawsuit.

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I read (not super-closely, probably missed tons of stuff) the main opinion and dissent, so take that for what little it’s worth.

both sides agree:

  • the 14th amendment and its equal protection clause have formed the basis of many important Supreme Court cases involving racial equality (Brown v. Board of Education, Plessy v. Ferguson, etc.)

  • to infringe on a constitutional right (in this case racial equality) the principle of strict scrutiny must be applied, which is complicated but there’s a lot of standards you have to meet

  • There have been a couple of important Supreme Court cases in the last few decades that have held that affirmative action policies meet the threshold of strict scrutiny

The majority opinion holds basically that affirmative action policies at Harvard and UNC did not meet the threshold of strict scrutiny so the equal protection should apply, except for military academies which apparently do meet strict scrutiny? And roughly that rulings in previous Supreme Court cases were narrow and intended to be temporarily applied.

The dissent… disagrees with that, and argues that precedent with the previous Supreme Court cases addressing this issue was still applicable and should have been followed

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I’m curious what you envision there. Would it be more like:

  1. Economic disparities, such as preferring students who come from multigenerational households where not everyone has a primary care physician

  2. Cultural items that correlate with race, like whether you prefer Pall Mall cigarettes over Newport Lites

  3. Asking applicants to write essays on topics that white people tend to be less familiar with

  4. Something else?

The dissent spends quite a bit of ink on racial biases in standardized testing. tl;dr they exist and affirmative action is intended to remediate that (as part of larger and more general systematic racism).

Whether it’s good for society and/or is constitutional is certainly a fair question, but I don’t have a lot of concern about people who complain that it’s unfair to them in particular.

The two ideas that ran through my mind, when skimming the opinions:

  1. I could see inquiring about the nature of an applicant’s home life as part of the application – did they grow up in a home owned by their parents (and if so, what kind?) or did they grow up in rental properties?

  2. I could see universities profiling high schools, or zip codes, with an eye towards being able to make a statement like “these high schools / neighborhoods are over-represented in our applicant pools…”

In reality, I would expect the schools to pursue more subtle criteria – home ownership and geography are probably coarse proxies for diversity – but I don’t have the knowledge/data to hypothesize a more refined set of criteria.

To build on my prior post… if there’s a concern that the use of proxy variables would be found unconstitutional, the use of alternative evaluation critieria could be viewed as a way of recognizing that traditional objective measures of student qualifications (standardized test scores and grades) may have biases unrelated to future academic success, and therefore if external data can be used to normalize for those biases, the use of such data might be justified.

Alternatively, you could build a system along these lines:

  • Assume x applicants for y positions in the freshman class
  • Rank-order the x applicants using some objective criteria (e.g. combination of standardized test scores and GPA)
  • Accept the top y/4 applicants.
  • Of the remaining applicants, accept in rank-order subject to other constraints (we don’t want too many enrollees from the same high school, or same ZIP code…)

…except what I have in my mind is a little more complicated/sophisiticated, but so much so that I don’t want to take the time to hash it out here, especially since it would need to be fine-tuned based on actual data, adjusted to recognize that not every person offered enrollment will accept…

OK, not R’ing, cuz TL, but:

  1. Doesn’t this simply restrict the Federal/State Governments from enforcing AA? (Like, restricting funding and shit like that?)
  2. Can universities still consider race when analyzing applicants if they want to?

I mean, it was the Federal/State govt’s that required AA. Shirley, the Court is not telling universities what they must do, and instead are telling them they are no longer bound by AA?

I don’t know exactly on these questions, but Harvard and UNC were the literal defendants in this case, so the Court is definitely telling them some things they have to do or not do.

The opinion describes the admissions processes at both of these institutions; my reading of both is that race was used as one of a few different ‘tiebreakers’ to do the final cut of admissions by the committees, and that that is no longer legal. The opinion also talks about it being legal to take into account an admissions essay where a student talks about their race and its impacts on them, but I doubt that will prevent future lawsuits when universities inevitably move towards this kind of thing.

Pardon my ignorance in this matter;
Is this something that would have been better left to the legislative branch rather than the judicial branch? Should Congress, in a non-polarized world, passed legislation addressing this rather than battle it out in the Supreme Court?

It looks like the Court is saying that if they consider race, even in an attempt to address historic inequities, they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

I haven’t parsed the decision enough to understand whether that is an absolute, or if they’ve taken the approach of “it may have been appropriate in the past, but at some point it has to end, and that point has been reached”.

I also haven’t parsed the decision enough to figure out how the application of the Equal Protection Clause applies to Harvard, a private university. Harvard’s AA program had also been challenged under civil rights legislation that prohibits both public and private colleges from discriminating based on race, but the majority opinion seems to focus strictly on the EPC.

Going back to my two prior posts…I’m now wondering if colleges might actually be obliged to do some form of proxy profiling, since if they rely strictly on test scores and GPA, they could be exposed to litigation alleging that such metrics are discriminatory because of biases against certain races.

The court held that the universities use AA violated asian-Americans rights under the 14th amendment.