The Supreme Court this week took up a case that just might put an end to race-based college admissions. The justices heard arguments Wednesday involving an affirmative action program, at the University of Texas, whose whole purpose seems to be to give special preference to black and Hispanic applicants who come from middle-income and affluent homes.
Long past are the days when affirmative action proponents could argue they were simply trying to help disadvantaged minorities, much less actual victims of discrimination. Now, the rallying cry is simply to bolster the number of black and Hispanic students on campus -- even if it means denying admission to better-qualified white and Asian students who also happen to be more economically disadvantaged than the favored minorities.
The University of Texas affirmative action program is one of the most egregious in the nation. It is also unnecessary as the university boasts one of the country's most racially and ethnically diverse student bodies, with over half the students non-white.
In 1996, Texas adopted a race-neutral program aimed at increasing diversity in the state university system. The policy guaranteed admission to the state university to any student who graduated within the top 10 percent of his or her high school class. The purpose was to ensure that high-performing students from low-income schools would have access to the state's best public higher education. It worked remarkably well to increase the number of black and Hispanic students. By 2004, 21 percent of the incoming freshmen were black or Hispanic and 18 percent were Asian.
But the university's obsession with creating even more "diversity," led it to adopt a race-conscious preference to ensure that blacks and Hispanics who didn't graduate in the top 10 percent of their class would also be given preferences. The result was a small boost in the number of blacks and Hispanics admitted -- but most of these preferences went to privileged minorities.
The beneficiaries were no longer disadvantaged minority kids who had attended underperforming schools but middle-class and even wealthy students who went to integrated, often suburban or private schools.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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