Supreme Court decision largely upholds affirmative action


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Although the U.S. Supreme Court chose on Monday not to strike down the University of Texas-Austin’s affirmative-action program, it did emphasize in a 7-1 decision that universities have a heavy burden in using ethnicity as a factor in admissions.

Several officials at the University of Iowa say the effects of Monday’s decision are not yet known.

Todd Pettys, an associate dean and professor at the UI College of Law, described the ruling as fairly anticlimactic.

“Depending on how you read the court’s prior rulings, today’s decision might not change anything,” he said.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said university officials would have to fully review the ruling to determine if it affects admissions policies.

Undergraduate admissions at Iowa’s three public universities are based on the Regent Admission Index.

Some UI policies do favor minorities.

“The Iowa Edge program is one of those programs that especially targets first-generation students — many of whom come from underrepresented groups,” UI President Sally Mason said in a 2012 interview with the DI. She said university officials do their best to use a holistic process to admit students.

Mason also confirmed that the Advantage Iowa program, which gives scholarships to minority students, is an example of affirmative action in the same interview.

“Everything we do is affirmative action,” Georgina Dodge, the UI chief diversity officer, told the DI in 2012. “Anything we do to help anyone could be affirmative action.”

One political expert at the UI also said Iowans must wait to see how this ruling may affect them.

“What this means right now is that the lower courts are going to take another look at this, and we kind of have to wait and see what they do,” said Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science.

Jessica King, a UI senior studying music and English, said her opinion on affirmative action is nuanced because it is such a tricky issue.

“To give someone an advantage based on their race, whether it be black, Hispanic, Asian, or even white … it shouldn’t be a factor,” she said, however stating she believes those policies are necessary today.

Citing the possibility of reverse discrimination, UI senior Reed Palmer said the time has come to start dialing affirmative-action policies back, even though they were needed in the past.

“I think we can see that in the Supreme Court’s decision [Monday],” he said. “They’re taking away some of the leeway that was granted to universities earlier.”

Palmer, who is studying political science for pre-law, said he believes discrimination is a big problem at some universities but not at the UI.

“We need to keep an eye on the policies and habits of those universities,” he said.

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