The attack on positive action is unacceptable


The United States Supreme Court is preparing to hear the case brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) over the use of race in college admissions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Harvard College. Much has been debated and written about this pending decision, and there is no shortage of individuals, associations, and companies (from Accenture to Zazzle) willing to share their point of view. In the education world, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the American Council on Education (ACE), a consortium of Catholic colleges, the leaders of the University of California system, and many other institutions have submitted amicus briefs in support of confirmatory action by the 1 August submission TBEN.

An amici briefing was submitted by a unique collaboration of co-signatory organizations all interested in promoting individualized, holistic assessments of applicants that consider the aggregate of each applicant’s background and experience, including race, ethnicity, and all others. factors relevant to a job application. thorough analysis of those seeking university admission.” On behalf of their members and constituents (of which I am one), the leaders of ACCEPT: Admissions Community Cultivating Equity & Peace Today, The Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS), and FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing filed a joint letter in support of UNC and Harvard’s current admissions policies (as well as thousands of colleges across the country).

ACCEPT is an “organization that creates just and just paths to post-secondary education, especially for those historically excluded.” ACCIS is a “membership organization of independent school-based college counselors who work with a wide variety of students in schools across the country and internationally to guide those students and their caregivers through the college admissions process.” FairTest is an “organization that promotes quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally favorable evaluations of students, teachers and schools.” All three nonprofit groups are staunch advocates of inclusive educational communities where learning is central and equality and access are central. So it’s not surprising that they found a common purpose in protecting positive action and the “compelling interest of different viewpoints and experiences” on campuses.

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Tell a story

As a school counselor, I have worked with students for over two decades to explore and communicate their unique stories in the college search and application experience. Who are they, what do they love and where are they honored? These are some of the many questions to consider when finding a good study match. This focus on their individual identity and their role in a community is the foundation not only for a successful college search, but also for a meaningful educational experience.

But this would be jeopardized if the court were to rule against these universities. In their brief ACCEPT, ACCIS and FairTest explain that “The position of the SFFA would eliminate the right of individuals to explain their own views and experiences and deny applicants the opportunity to increase their chances of admission by providing their full story, history and experience in their applications.”

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Instead, the letter states that colleges should be free to consider the context from which an applicant comes. It explains that this “context may include racial or ethnic-related challenges overcome by the applicant, such as growing up poor and black in Mississippi, or a white applicant participating in community efforts to eliminate hostility toward Asian-Americans in New York City. ”


The letter outlines the inherent racism in SFFA’s argument. The authors write: “SFFA’s “race-neutral” arrangement would in fact lead to unfair and disparate treatment of applicants based on race and ethnicity. SFFA would allow reviewers to consider the volunteer work of an applicant to the Junior League as a ‘ plus” but forcing them to ignore an applicant’s leadership role in the Urban League. Similarly, critics should ignore a candidate’s missionary work through her African Methodist Episcopal Church because it involves race. application is addressed, the greater the benefit to the applicant, because the evaluator has nothing to ignore.Instead of a “color-blind” process, SFFA would skew admissions decisions to favor experiences and activities more closely related to the white experience. “

Marie Bigham, founder and executive director of ACCEPT, is a former school counselor and admissions officer. In a press release announcing the assignment, she writes, “As a multiracial Asian admissions professional, I cannot stand by as the hard-fought battle to reduce the representation of students of color — including AAPI students — in colleges in an effort to empower those who are already privileged. benefit in a myriad of other ways.” Bigham also says, “The SFFA’s positions are riddled with gross racial stereotypes, clearly unworkable ‘solutions’ and mischaracterizations of the admissions process,” adding, “We call on the Supreme Court to correct this misinformation, which has already been shared by the courts has refused, to reject below.”

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Bob Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest, disagrees with “increasing the emphasis on ACT/SAT scores in the admissions process, as advocated by holistic policy opponents at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.” Schaeffer argues that “test scores don’t measure ‘merit’,” and giving more weight to standardized tests “will reduce student diversity without improving academic quality.” He adds: “The current practices of those two institutions are fair, valid and well justified and that is why three leading university admission reform organizations – ACCEPT, ACCIS and FairTest – came together to advance this joint mission.”

Not short but convincing

The “letter” is a 45-page (there was an 8,000-word limit) nod of the head for anyone recognizing the powerful potential of a college education to expose students, educators, and community members to a rich, diverse, and transformative experience. Packed with examples, even a positive action skeptic would be challenged to read this amici briefing and not question their beliefs. Hopefully the Supreme Court will give this, and the other documents, due consideration when making a momentous decision that would unravel more than 40 years of legal precedent and affect future generations of scholars and those who serve them.


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