This month, affirmative action was the hot topic in higher education, as all eyes turned to the U.S. Supreme Court justices who heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest legal consideration of affirmative action in higher education admissions, on Oct. 10.
There was no lack of arguments for or against affirmative action in the media leading up to this month’s Supreme Court hearing of the case. Supporters who rallied outside the Supreme Court building on the morning of the hearing argued that the use of race in college admissions is still needed to create diverse student bodies and enrich postsecondary education. Meanwhile, others like Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. questioned whether it is, indeed, a beneficial practice for minorities.
In the end, the fate of affirmative action as a policy once again rests in the hands of the Supreme Court justices. What the High Court judges cannot decide is how the higher education community will move forward and whether it will confront tough questions about how race and ethnicity are addressed in the United States. In our view, whether or not affirmative action is upheld, the higher education community has an obligation to make the principle of racial and ethnic diversity, dare we say equity, an indelible part of our conversation. What’s more, we have an opportunity to lead a meaningful and constructive national dialogue on what the future of diversity and equity mean in our country. To do so, issues of diversity and equity must become a part of conversations in the classroom. Faculty, students, and administrators must not back away from facilitating robust talks on race and ethnicity on their campuses.
The case for a level educational playing field, which represents our nation’s diversity and enhances our democracy, rests within the hands of those who care about these issues. And it will take all of us promoting these issues in the national dialogue to keep equity and diversity at the front of the higher education agenda.