TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— As the conservative-led Supreme Court weighs a case on affirmative action in college admissions at two prestigious universities, some legal experts say a rejection of the practice is unlikely.
The case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court focuses on admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Both schools consider the race of applicants, as one of many criteria, to achieve diversity.
Cheryl Nelson-Butler, an Associate Attorney at a law firm in Texas, who teaches Race and the Law as a visiting Professor at Washburn University in Topeka, weighed in on the case in an interview Friday.
Nelson-Butler said while a rejection of affirmative action could have a ripple effect into employment practices, it’s unlikely that it will have to get to that point. She argues that affirmative action is a “constitutional right.”
“The plaintiffs in the case incorrectly argue that the Constitution says you can’t take race into account at all. And, that’s a misconception, because under the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, you can take race into account to remedy past discrimination,” Nelson-Butler said. “This case may come down to the limited issue of whether Harvard and University of North Carolina are correctly applying race in their admissions process.”
It’s “unclear” how a decision on affirmative action in college admissions at the two schools could impact Kansas universities.
In a statement, Matt Keith, a spokesman for the Kansas Board of Regents, said that state universities work differently than those involved in this case.
Public state universities in Kansas guarantee admissions for students who meet minimum GPA or ACT requirements. Board policy also requires that student admissions be made without regard to factors like race.
“The admissions process for state universities in Kansas is significantly different from that of the institutions involved in the cases you mentioned. While those universities admit a small percentage of their applicants, state universities in Kansas guarantee admission for students who meet minimum GPA or ACT requirements. Further, Board policy requires that ‘all decisions with reference to student status, i.e. admission, academic achievements and discipline, be made without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, physical handicap or disability, status as a Vietnam Era Veteran, sexual orientation or other factors which cannot be lawfully considered.’ State universities are committed to recruiting and serving students from traditionally underserved populations, but the nature of qualified admissions makes their circumstances substantially different.”Matt Keith, Kansas Board of Regents spokesman
However, state universities do have “comprehensive affirmative action plans” for employment practices, since they are federal contractors, Keith explained. He said, as of now, it’s not clear how the Supreme Court’s decision could impact those practices.
“…As federal contractors state universities have comprehensive affirmative action plans to provide equal employment opportunity,” he stated. “However, it is unclear at this point how or if the cases before the Supreme Court would impact those. In any case, state universities will continue to follow all applicable federal and state laws.”