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Affirmative Action is dead, but Miami can still foster diversity

Staff Editorial

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. This practice, not used by all schools, has been a topic of debate since its inception. Regardless of one’s beliefs, the program succeeded in creating student bodies that are more demographically accurate to the nation.

The new ruling now makes it illegal to use race as a factor in admissions at colleges and universities like Miami University across the country. The verdict also explicitly allows for legacy admissions or benefitting the children of former students in the admissions process.

In the past several years, the Supreme Court has become more and more of a partisan political platform than in the past. With the court’s conservative majority unanimously voting to strike down affirmative action, and the liberal minority voting in dissent, the function of the Court, in this case, is overtly partisan.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas both used the term “colorblindness” in their opinions. “Colorblindness” as it pertains to race is a political theory, not a legal theory, and one that fails to see institutional racism for the problem that it is, instead suggesting that every decision should be blind to the race of the people those decisions impact.

The court’s ruling intends to enforce the equal protection clause of the Constitution but fails to see things three-dimensionally. Equal protection under the law must mean that the law allows for leveling the playing field after generations of injustice under the law. 

Failing to see affirmative action as a historically-rooted necessity while also allowing for legacy admissions to stay is nonsensical and will lead to top-heavy institutions filled with more and more wealthy white students.

While Miami’s admission policies are publicly available online, the university doesn’t explicitly mention whether it has made use of affirmative action in enrollment decisions. Instead, the policy states that the university “considers the diversity of the student body and applicants’ special abilities, talents, and achievements.” It is unclear right now the extent to which this ruling will alter the procedures in place at our university. For the class of 2024, Miami admitted legacy students to the tune of 36%. Only 16% of the class was “multicultural” by the university’s estimates.

Only 3.2% of students on the Oxford campus are Black, and only 4.2% are Black across the Miami campuses. Whether Miami used affirmative action until this moment or not, it has failed to “recruit[] a student body that is well-rounded, talented, and diverse across beliefs, lived experiences, culture, and race,” despite this goal being outlined in a recent community-wide email.

In the email, signed by President Greg Crawford, Provost Liz Mullenix and Vice-President for Enrollment Management and Student Success Brent Shock, the Miami community learned unreasonably little about the policies formerly in place and the processes to come when it comes to admissions. The email states that the leaders of our university “have planned to carefully analyze its impact on our community.”

While this is a major blow to equity and the leveling of the playing field for Americans, there is an opportunity here to use this ruling to craft intricate practices for admissions that seek out diversity for the student body. As our administrators analyze the impacts of the ruling, they must seek out new opportunities to expand enrollment of historically underserved communities at Miami. Colleges and universities can still use geographic data, economic status and many other factors facing potential students. 

This ruling cannot be used as a scapegoat to forgo any genuine attempts at creating a diverse student body because it is challenging. Admissions can become more holistic following this ruling, rather than less.

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From 2020 to 2022, Miami University’s white population has trended higher each year. Going forward, we need policies that actively work against this, and those policies need to be visible to students, faculty and prospective students. 

Higher education is under attack, but that does not mean we are hopeless. Colleges and universities can be instruments of change for society. Miami’s administration can spark that change starting now, by creating new admissions policies with goals based in equity across all demographics. We already have some in place now, like the Bridges Program that aims to make college degrees “more accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.”

Moving forward, Miami can be more intentional in the high schools from which it chooses to recruit, focusing efforts on low-income neighborhoods and communities rather than rich suburbs that are overwhelmingly white. The university should also put a much smaller emphasis on legacy admissions. If our legacy is predominantly white and wealthy, we cannot expect a change by admitting the same families for generations simply because they have a family connection.

This is not a moment to put our hands in our pockets and walk away from the problem. This is a chance to change for the better. We must take this as a sign from those against racial equality to pave forward with a new path that seeks out equality and diversity.

We must not let this decision stop us from becoming a better university.

The Student’s Editorial Board comprises the following members with an additional seat used depending on the topic of discussion and at the discretion of the core board members: Editor-in-Chief Sean Scott, Managing Editor Luke Macy, Senior C&C Editor Alice Momany, C&C Editor Reagan Rude, Opinion Editor Devin Ankeney and Sports Editor Jack Schmelzinger. DEI Chair Nisso Sacha also participated in this editorial discussion.