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Case could alter affirmative action’s future at public universities

Courtesy of MCT

It all started with a simple college application.
How colleges evaluate applicants and race at public universities like Ohio State could be changing with an upcoming Supreme Court decision.
Abigail Fisher, a white student who wanted to attend a Texas university in 2008, brought the case to the court’s attention. Fisher did not qualify for the “Top 10 percent” law that the Texas legislature had passed in 1997 which automatically accepts the top students in every Texas high school to any Texas state university, regardless of race.
Fisher went through the regular admission process but when she was denied entrance, she sued the school claiming that Texas’ use of race did not meet the standards set by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, which debated whether race could be used in the admission process for the University of Michigan’s law school. It was decided in a 5-to-4 opinion that race could be used in the admissions process so universities and colleges could ensure a diverse student body.
However, institutions were prohibited from using race quotas.
Things could change for future student applicants in the admission process if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Fisher.
The decision to prohibit racial considerations in college admissions would have an impact for OSU’s admission process, said Vern Granger the OSU associate vice president of enrollment services and director of admissions.
“It’s a hot topic among universities like us,” he said. “Ohio State (is) looking at monitoring the case closely.”
If the court prohibits the use of race in the admission process, it would be “tougher to say how much so,” Granger said, adding that race is not “exclusively used” but is a secondary factor in the review process.  
The most important factor, Granger said, is that the university focuses on is the student’s “academic capability to be successful at Ohio State.”
Some students are in favor of the court to prevent race as a consideration in the admission process.
“People go to college to further their education so that’s what should be focused on,” said Chrislyn Koch, a first-year in exploration. Koch said that certain traits such as sex, gender and race should not be considered in the admissions process.
A panel of professors and legal experts discussed the issues surrounding the latest affirmative action Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas on Tuesday at OSU. The panel, which met at the Moritz College of Law, examined some of the likely outcomes as well as the future of affirmative action. Sharon Davies, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute, moderated the discussion.
“The population is shifting,” said Angel Harris, a Princeton University professor, at the panel. He said that by 2050 the minorities would become the majority, which would have an impact on the educated population. So far in 2012, minority births in the U.S. exceeded births of white children.
The case is an attempt to “write race out of the law,” said Damon Hewitt, director of education practice for NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He said there are “significant racial disparities” that cannot be ignored for this to happen.
Other than overruling the Grutter decision, the Supreme Court would have to either uphold the decision, or narrow it to private and law schools, said Phillip Daniel, the OSU law professor who was on the panel.
Some students think diversity is an important characteristic to the student body at OSU. Among them is Chizo Emeaghara, a third-year in exercise science. As an African-American, Emeaghara said he attended a predominantly white high school.
“It’s nice to see another black face,” he said smiling. “It’s always nice to have diversity at your school.”
Emeaghara said diversity is important for the school’s student body, but should not be an exclusive factor in the admission process.
“You still need to work hard,” he said.
Of the almost 57,000 OSU students who attend the Columbus campus, 8,187 minorities make up 14.4 percent of the campus population, according to a university website.
The court’s decision is expected to come in late June.
“It’s going to impact a lot of universities like us,” Granger said of OSU. 

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