HIGHER ED DIGEST: Supreme Court affirmative action battle will be the wrong fight at the wrong time

Supreme court - Wikipedia

While the United States Supreme Court may have an overwhelming conservative majority among its ranks, the court’s decision to hear a suit against two universities for alleged affirmative action overreach couldn’t be more misguided. 

The court’s 6-3 standing has shown no appetite to cater to the racialized whims of GOP fire-starter talking points. Roe v. Wade is as close as the judges will get; the court’s inaction on healthcare and election fraud, and its own precedent on the matter of affirmative action in the Guttinger v Bollinger decision, make it likely that a court majority will not inflame racial tension in an already racially tense American society. 

But let’s imagine that the SCOTUS revisits and reverses course on institutional diversity efforts. Is the judicial system prepared for dockets jammed with thousands of claims that would be made anytime a campus got a little too non-white? 

Are these campuses ready for the national boycotts of minority students, waves of transfers, and the enrollment losses that would result? With total college enrollment sagging nationwide and the latest census showing that people of color are the antidote to broken admission systems, would the court break its own precedent and bundle legal opinion to policy kindling to stoke an economic race war in higher education?

How would the law be enforced if the courts did strike down affirmative action in public institutions? Would states be responsible for monitoring the racial demographics of accepted students or those who actually enroll? 

Most importantly, imagine if a sizable number of minority students, student-athletes, and professors just said, “screw it, we’re going to historically Black colleges and universities and taking our money with us.” The funny thing about diversity hires and admits is that they count towards the bottom line in funding, research, and performance metrics, just like white students and faculty members. So the idea of losing money and clout on a silly subject like not letting people of color into school seems a bit unintelligent. 

If the court is willing to wreak havoc on its own previously settled case law, ignore the views of lower courts and damage the socio-economic integrity of higher education at large, it would be surprising. But more than this, it would be impossible to enforce today and, given the shifting racial composition of the country, illogical in the years to come.

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