Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of diversity as a compelling state interest, some faculty members have hesitations about its effect and implications in higher education.

Philosophy Prof. Carl Cohen said the continued use of race in admissions is less of a victory than it might seem.

“I regret the fact that the categories of race have not been completely rejected by the court. I look forward to the day when advantages and disadvantages on the basis of skin color are gone, are no longer effective in our country. Someday that will happen, and I hope it will be soon,” he said.

Cohen spoke of the need for the country to transcend the categories of race and skin color to bring about a more equal society.

“Racial discrimination is wrong, it has always been wrong, it is wrong still. Equal protection of the laws protect everyone whether they are white or black or green or blue, and my hope is that that will be made more effective in the years ahead,” he said.

He added that while the court’s decision is a victory for the University, it was won on the principle that the diversification of the incoming class is an educational benefit of great importance, and that race may continue to be used but only in that narrow context.

“These decisions do not at all refer to compensatory arguments or remediation or leveling the playing field, all of that has been put aside, it was put aside in Bakke and has been put aside again,” he said. “It is a justification of race only for the narrow purposes of increasing the educational benefits in the Law School, that’s all.”

Rackham Dean Earl Lewis said the Supreme Court rightfully recognized the continuing importance of race in American society, in that it is still a compelling state interest.

“This is a step towards a race-neutral society, this is different than being color-blind. I don’t know if we will ever live in a color-blind society, but a race-neutral society – where one’s position in life does not depend on his or her race – is preferable,” Lewis said.

Lewis added that in addition to inspiring national debate over affirmative action, the lawsuits demonstrated that current University admissions policies are in accordance with the Bakke decision of 1978.

“The impact of this ruling is immediate. It tells the educational community that what we have been doing since 1978 is constitutional,” Lewis said.

He added that the Supreme Court’s ruling does not spell the end of the affirmative action debate.

“Some who have challenged these practices will continue to challenge them. The opponents of affirmative action will not go away, they will retool and redirect their energies,” Lewis said.

The ruling was important, said Center for African and African-American Studies lecturer Nesha Haniff, but there’s more to be done.

“The ruling was fair in the context of a conservative court and administration, but the ruling did not move us any further than Bakke.”

She said race will remain a factor in the near future, and that society needs to take more active steps towards resolving the root of the problem.

“Race relations are not improved by court rulings, but by the environments that court rulings set up. Race relations are decided by certain government policies – for example those dealing with the military, the school system, poverty – not just affirmative action, and these government policies are, indirectly, racist in nature.”

Vincent Hutchings, political science assistant professor and research associate for the Center for Political Studies, said he is worried about the future of race-conscious admissions.

“The political right will continue to seek ways to diminish and undermine affirmative action … they won’t take it laying down.”

He said he is also concerned about the way the restructuring of the undergraduate admissions system without a point system will affect the ability of LSA to achieve a diverse environment.

“I thought the point system was fine, but more importantly I’m interested in maintaining a racially diverse intellectual environment,” Hutchings said.

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