Yesterday’s much awaited U.S. Supreme Court decision marked both the end and the beginning of many student marches, petitions, rallies and debates surrounding the controversial issue of affirmative action in the University’s admissions policies.
The split decision reflects the array of student beliefs across campus with strong support for both sides of this issue – and many still undecided and confused about the Supreme Court’s decision.
The key component of the court’s split decision was the fact that in both the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and Law School cases race was considered to be a legitimate factor in their admissions policies. Many University students, regardless of their stance on the University’s current admissions system support the idea that racial diversity is a compelling state interest.
Mathematics doctoral candidate Jared Maruskin agreed that diversity is important and does have an effect on students, even on those who are unaware of it.
“I’ve had friends who have said that diversity doesn’t really affect me, that people still stay in their groups,” Maruskin said. “But it’s very important even if we just see people from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds represented here,” he continued.
“It does have an effect, even though some people might not be conscious of that effect,” Maruskin said.
Engineering senior Kavon Stewart also agreed with the court’s ruling on the importance of diversity.
“I’m happy they decided to consider race as an issue in the law schools, because when you think about it, there aren’t really that many African Americans or minorities in general in the law schools.”
LSA junior Danny Huerta cited existing social imperfections as rationale enough for affirmative action.
“At a school like this you want to have diversity, and it happens that in today’s world underrepresented minorities don’t have their chance necessarily because they can’t pay for SAT classes or they don’t go to such great schools,” he said.
Kelly Jones, a first- year graduate student in the School of Education, agreed that certain races are specifically disadvantaged and said that “because of the inequity that there is for certain groups of people, there has to be some way to make up for that.”
However, Jones and fellow students, while understanding the need for current race-conscious policies, have concerns about instituting a permanent affirmative action policy.
“I believe it needs to start at the grade school and high school levels and that we shouldn’t have to do this at college, but right now we need to,” she added.
While many agree that racial diversity is an important concern for the University, economic diversity is also an important concern that many feel is overlooked.
“I think that seeking diversity should be a factor in admissions, and racial diversity is certainly a kind of diversity. I’d also like to see economic diversity,” said Rackham student Sarah Nuss-Warren.
LSA junior Sam Botsford said that although he supports affirmative action, certain changes need to be made.
“I think that the idea of affirmative action is a great idea, I just think that it’s skewed.”
“A better idea for affirmative action is for it to be based on socioeconomic class regardless of race,” he added.
Botsford added that the points awarded for legacy in the University’s admissions system should also be eliminated “because its like white affirmative action.”
“Two generations ago, black people weren’t going to college in any kind of numbers at all. The only people benefiting from (legacy points) are white people. And so that’s basically white affirmative action,” he said.
But regardless of students’ varying opinions on affirmative action, diversity remains important to many students.
“It’s necessary to have affirmative action in order to get the diversity,” said Engineering graduate student Smith Thepvongs.
Maruskin, agreeing that diversity is a primary concern of the University, said, “I’m always fond of saying that God loves a variety, I guess the University o f Michigan does too.”