Racial quotas for admissions are still outlawed

It’s easy to forget amid the controversy that efforts to diversify student admissions must be subject to the strict scrutiny standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court (“A Timeline of Key Supreme Court Cases on Affirmative Action,” The New York Times, Mar. 30).

The first time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on affirmative action was in Marco DeFunis Jr. v. Odegaard.  But since the plaintiff was already in his third year of law school, the suit was moot.  It was not until 1978 in the landmark Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that the high court established the strict scrutiny standard.  It meant that race could be a factor in determining admissions, but racial quotas went too far.  Since then it has consistently upheld that position.

The implications are felt more than ever today, with New York City being the latest venue.  Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza are determined to diversity student enrollment at the city’s eight elite high schools.  They insist that the percentage of those admitted reflect the percentage of students in the city racially.  I fail to see why what they want is not a quota, no matter how justified in their minds their goal is.

Even if the mayor and the chancellor can somehow convince the state Legislature to repeal the Hecht-Calandra Act that requires the schools in question to rely strictly on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test in determining admissions, I believe the decision will eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.  When it does, I hope that the high court will not reverse itself on the issue.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Racial quotas for admissions are still outlawed”

  1. Requiring that the percentage of students of race X in an elite school match the percentage of race X students in the school system would be a quota and probably would not survive court review.

    However, if instead NYC required that the same percentage of students from each feeder school be admitted to an elite school or that all students in the top 10% of a feeder school be admitted to an elite school (in each case, without regard to the race of the students), that would probably not be a quota and would survive court review. Thought that this was the approach NYC was considering.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The mayor and the chancellor want the percentage of students admitted to conform to a stipulated percentage. If that’s not a quota, I don’t know what is.

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