Upcoming Supreme Court decision on affirmative action will not affect UNH
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Back in 2003, in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it was acceptable for college admissions departments to take race into account when admitting students. This past Wednesday, Abigail Fisher went to the Supreme Court to challenge that decision.
The case originally began in 2008 when Fisher sued the University of Texas after they denied her admission to the university, for reasons she believed were due to her race. As a white student, Fisher felt discriminated against because she couldn’t give the school the diversity it was looking for.
The University of Texas accepts all Texas high school students in the top 10 percent of their class, but Fisher didn’t make the mark. Being in the top 12 percent, she was put into a pool of applicants where other factors were evaluated, such as grades, extracurricular activities and race. Ultimately, Fisher didn’t get into the university and instead accepted enrollment at Louisiana State University.
In 2009, the U.S. District Court upheld Texas’s policy regarding race and said it didn’t violate the decision made in Grutter v. Bollinger. It was decided that its top 10 percent plan was making the university diverse enough due to the growing number of varying races falling within the top 10 percent of its graduating classes. Fisher’s argument no longer held up.
On Wednesday, Oct. 10, the Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether or not affirmative action should remain in place. Affirmative action refers to college admissions taking factors such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation into account in order to accept underrepresented students and create a more diverse learning environment. Although a decision has not yet been made, this case could possibly overthrow the Grutter v. Bollinger decision and end affirmative action.
With this case becoming popular in the news, it may lead students to inquire about UNH’s admissions policy concerning race. Diversity, or lack of thereof, may be considered a problem on campus by some students. Out of the 3,007 first-year students at UNH this semester, only 241 are not white.
By state law, UNH is not allowed to consider race in its admissions. Although he said diversity is very important to the university, Robert McGann, director of admissions, said he doesn’t believe that it should be used against a student in any way.
“Should we be penalizing students for things beyond their control?” he asked.
UNH students tend to think that the answer is no.
“Race should not at all be included. If you have the grades and resume for it, you should be considered no matter your race,” student Kristin Therrien said.
Fellow student Caitlin McCarthy shares this view.
“I think it’s ludicrous that anyone needs to be concerned about being anything other than a strong individual,” McCarthy said.
McGann said he believes there is a real educational value for a diverse environment and that UNH is very concerned about diversity. Vice President for Student and Academic Services Mark Rubinstein had the same thoughts.
“The Office of Admissions does extensive outreach, not just to schools, but also to community groups to encourage students from underrepresented groups to apply to UNH,” he said.
Rubinstein went on to say that this gives well-qualified students, who otherwise may not have considered college an option, the chance to go on to higher education.
“We’re obligated to give others the opportunity to strive,” McGann said.
He also said he believes that it’s very important for college students to understand diversity, and that having this skill can make students into more well-rounded individuals. This can be difficult, however, in a school where only approximately 8 percent of incoming students are of a race other than white.
UNH’s lack of diversity can be attributed mainly to two things: geography and price.
“New Hampshire, as a state, is less diverse than many other states and UNH is among the most expensive public universities in the country, which represents a barrier for many students,” Rubinstein said.
Another factor regarding the university’s lack of diversity is that UNH is even more expensive for out-of-state students, who are more racially diverse than those who live in the state.
Current students tend to see the lack of diversity as well, despite the university’s efforts to fix the problem.
“I think for small-town New Hampshire we’re pretty diverse, but nationally we’re not,” sophomore Colleen Kelty said.
UNH is working to bring an understanding of diversity to campus through many different programs. A prominent program at the university is the Diversity Support Coalition, which offers support to many different groups, not just those that are racially diverse.
No matter what the Supreme Court decides, UNH will not be affected because of the state law currently in place.