Death Knell for Race Discrimination?

I haven’t seen or read a transcript of today’s Supreme Court hearing. Scott or Steve may offer more informed commentary shortly. But, based on news accounts, the day seems to have gone well for opponents of race discrimination in higher education. The pro-discrimination Washington Post is inconsolable:

Conservative justices on Monday seemed open to ending decades of Supreme Court precedent allowing race-conscious admission decisions at colleges and universities, repeatedly expressing doubt that the institutions would ever concede an “endpoint” in their use of race to build diverse student bodies.

After nearly five hours of argument, the affirmative-action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seemed seriously endangered. The question is how broad such a decision might be, and what it would mean for other elite colleges and flagship state universities that say relying on grades and test scores alone could result in a dramatic drop in Black and Hispanic students.

Did someone say they have to rely on “grades and test scores alone”? I missed that. I think the question is whether they can rely on skin color.

Justice Thomas made heads spin by questioning one of the great shibboleths of our time–the value of diversity of skin color:

During arguments involving admissions policies at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Thomas asked state Solicitor General Ryan Park to describe the educational benefit to including race as a factor in college admissions. Park responded that in studies involving stock trading results, “racially diverse groups of people … perform at a higher level.”

“The mechanism there is that it reduces groupthink and that people have longer and more sustained disagreement, and that leads to a more efficient outcome,” Park said.

Thomas responded, “I guess I don’t put much stock in that because I’ve heard similar arguments in favor of segregation, too.”

“I’ve heard the word diversity quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means. It seems to mean everything for everyone,” Thomas also stated during his line of questioning.
In a later discussion with David Hinojosa, the director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Thomas seemed to reject the idea that affirmative action policies should continue simply because a school asserts there is a compelling interest in doing so.

“I cannot think of another area of another case where the court deferred to the alleged discriminator on something as important as compelling interest,” Thomas said.
Thomas was unconvinced and said the court would not be so accepting of a contrary assertion by a college.

“If this was … this case involved a school district in Virginia in 1960 that is alleged to be discriminating, would this court defer to its assertion that the races do better if they’re segregated?” Thomas asked.

Hinojosa said, “That’s not this case. This case is about a limited classification involving a compelling interest.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the court’s deference. In that case, the court would put Virginia to the test. In this case, it does not. I am asking you why the difference?” Thomas responded.

Hinojosa said University of North Carolina faced a “high burden” to justify including race as an admission factor and argued it met it.

I’m guessing the Court will disagree.

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