April 29, 2014

Affirmative Action ‘Necessary’ for Colleges, Student Leaders Say

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In the light of last week’s Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action case — in which the Supreme Court decided a state law that prohibits affirmative action at state universities does not violate the Constitution — Cornell students said they believe affirmative action is necessary for colleges across the country.

On April 22, the Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities in a 6-to-2 ruling, according to The New York Times. The justice’s decision said that Michigan’s law is protected by the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Student Assembly President Ulysses Smith ’14 said he believes the ruling was an instance of when “the Court got it wrong.”

“In a few years, hopefully it will look back and correct this decision if Congress does not act first. This is yet another blow to the many efforts that have been made to

correct many of the inequities and inequalities that persist in this nation today, especially in regard to race.”

According to Smith, the Court did not properly assess its responsibility as a federal body to “protect all peoples of the United States,” and instead framed the entire case around states’ rights.

“The Court frames this case as only about whether or not states can, and in what manner, prohibit race-conscious admissions policies,” Smith said. “What the Court seems to scoot around is the question of whether or not and how the federal government can intervene in such matters.”

Amiri Banks ’17, co-president of the organization Students Working Ambitiously to Graduate, said that while he does not have an issue with this particular court decision, he hopes that opponents of affirmative action examine why they are against it.

“I feel that the decision was made is because people are a little deceived by the people who criticize affirmative action and believe, for many reasons, that affirmative action is no longer necessary and that it’s actually hurting other demographics that are trying to get into college,” Banks said.

Smith agreed, also noting the “misconception” that affirmative action only benefits racial minorities when it can also serve other groups.

“The fact of the matter is that affirmative action actually benefits poor, white males more than any other group,” he said. “This is not necessarily a bad thing. The point of affirmative action is to help groups that have been traditionally slighted and marginalized in this country get a better chance at succeeding, and to shield them from acts like Michigan’s Proposal 2.”

Smith and Banks both emphasized that at the current time, however, racial disparities do exist in education and affirmative action programs can alleviate some of the problems.

“I don’t think that in 2014 we’re at the point where we can afford — just as we’re finally making strides and beginning to integrate diversity at a very basic and respectable level at a campus like Cornell University — to take away the opportunities of a lot of people like me, to be where I am right now,” Banks said.

Smith echoed Banks’ sentiments.

“It is silly to think that we can simply declare that race does not matter and everything will be okay,” he said.