Could This Be the End of Affirmative Action at Holy Cross?

September 24th, 2012 by Danielle Kane
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In October 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case that challenges the constitutionality of race-based affirmative action in admissions programs at public colleges and universities. Many at the College of the Holy Cross, and other public and private institutions around the country, are watching this case closely for the possible repercussions it could have on the future of affirmative action plans at all higher education institutions. If the ruling opinion is to end affirmative action at public institutions, it could quickly ripple to encompass any private institution, such as Holy Cross, that accepts federal funds.

Holy Cross has a celebrated history of recruiting a diverse student body, and the College filed an amicus brief in the case with seven other Catholic colleges and universities. The brief argues that the Supreme Court has long upheld academic freedom, and the institutions’ admissions policies should be protected by the First Amendment.

The College, its students, and its alumni have a stake in this. One way or another, the end of affirmative action would change life on campus. So this fall, the College’s Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, tasked with probing these difficult, ethical issues in public forums, is taking on the topic of affirmative action and its value at Holy Cross.

Add your voice to the discussion.

On Sept. 17, Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy gave a public lecture here on “The Supreme Court and Affirmative Action.” In his talk, he highlighted key decisions in race-based affirmative action in higher education over the last 34 years. He offered a prediction of Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. And he laid out his own case defending race-based affirmative action as a form of restorative justice to historically disadvantaged populations.

Watch Prof. Kennedy’s lecture online here.

With that background, the McFarland Center now poses the question to its constituents, students, alumni, faculty, and staff: Does affirmative action help or hinder us in becoming a more just society?

A “fishbowl” discussion will take place on Monday, Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the Rehm Library. During the fishbowl, a small group of faculty, students and alumni seated in an inner circle will discuss the topic, before opening up the floor for questions and comments by the audience seated in an outer circle. Featured participants will include Margaret Freije, associate dean of the College; Kendy Hess, Brake-Smith Assistant Professor in Social Philosophy and Ethics; Darrell Byers ’83, director of development at WBUR; and students Patricia Giglio ’14, Ariel Jimenez ’13, Christopher Theobalt ’13 and Antonio Willis-Berry ’13.

All are welcome to attend the fishbowl. The event also will be recorded and available for online viewing in the days leading up to and following the Supreme Court proceedings. Submit your comments online to help us continue a meaningful dialogue on the future of affirmative action at Holy Cross.

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Comments (1)
  1. Andrew says:

    This is certainly an interesting topic and one that I’m glad to see the greater HC community taking an interest in, especially considering Justice Thomas’ role in the Court.

    My personal view is that race-based affirmative action, while certainly strengthening diversity, creates an inherently unequal admissions process for all involved. Applicants are left to wonder whether they were admitted or rejected not based on academic merit or ability, but rather the color of their skin – a factor over which they have no control.

    If true equality is the fundamental basis for civil rights, how can one justify such an unequal process in which one’s race, gender, or any other non-merit factor impacts an admissions decision? Would it not be more equal to all involved if applicants were selected solely on their academic merit and strength of character, rather than their race?

    Undoubtedly the College will address this interesting issue with the rigor it deserves. Looking forward to the healthy dialogue and reading about the Supreme Court’s decision.

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