When Andrew Brennen thinks about the US supreme court deliberations over race-conscious admissions, he reflects on his parents, attorneys, and brother. In 2009, his father, David, became the first Black dean of the University of Kentucky’s law school since the state desegregated its colleges and universities.
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“Had they not had access to higher education that they received, who knows what they would’ve been doing,” Brennen, who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019, says. “I’m thinking a lot about how different my life, my brother’s life, would be if a
In 1978, the US supreme court ruled in Bakke v California that race could not be the sole factor in admissions decisions but said it could be one of many “plus” factors. Thirty-five years later, in the Fisher v University of Texas, the court again affirmed the use of race in admissions but said universities must show that race-neutral means have been exhausted before considering race and that their programs are narrowly tailored.
The Trump administration has argued that the court should do away with affirmative action, saying it is unnecessary and discriminatory. But students and alumni from some of the country’s most competitive colleges say race-conscious admissions are crucial to ensuring that students of colour access the best education.
“As a country, we haven’t made up for past discrimination,” says Brennen, a law student at Georgetown University. “So I think it would be shortsighted to eliminate affirmative action when we know that our country has a history of discriminating against certain groups.”
Shelby Cooper, a senior at Stanford University, says she benefited from race-conscious admissions in her life. Cooper, Black and Native American, says she was admitted to Stanford after being waitlisted at several other colleges.
“I know that if it weren’t for the fact that Stanford considers race and ethnicity in their admissions decisions, I would not be here,” she says.
Cooper says she’s seen firsthand how important affirmative action is for students of colour on campus.
“When you have a more diverse student body, it creates a more well-rounded learning experience for everyone,” she says. “You have different perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences that you can learn from and grow from.”
Brennen agrees, saying that a diverse student body is essential to preparing students for the real world.
“If we want to have a more representative workforce, if we want to have a more representative government, then we need to have a more representative student body in our colleges and universities,” he says.
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