Miss. Education Officials React to Supreme Court RulingBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 25 Jun 2013 09:02am |
Education leaders in Mississippi are paying close attention to an affirmative action case that was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court then sent back to a lower court. Some Mississippi institutions discuss what affect that could have on Mississippi schools.
In Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin, a white student claimed that UT's decision to not admit her was unfairly based on race. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously upheld UT Austin's existing policy.
But, the Supreme Court decided the lower court did not adequately hold the university to the strict scrutiny laid out in previous admissions decisions.
Thomas O'Brien chairs the department of educational studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. He says the ultimate outcome is crucial to the future of affirmative action in the United States.
"The Supreme Court here, is in some ways saying 'We're not going down that road yet, we're not going to get rid of affirmative action,' But they're also calling for a very narrow use of race in the admissions policy, I think we're still struggling with this very complex, difficult issue with regard to who gets to go to college," says O'Brien.
College Board Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds says race plays a significant role in ensuring universities in Mississippi are as racially diverse as possible.
"Those are primarily in areas that are overpopulated by students, in other words, where we have more applicants than we have slots, whether it's an honors program or we know that we need for example more African-American physicians in the state, so it is not the factor, but it can be one of the many factors that's used in admission," explains Bounds.
Regardless of the lower courts ruling O'Brien believes it will have little impact on schools in Mississippi because of the strides already being taken.
"Here at Southern Miss. for example, I think 28 to 35 percent of our graduate student body is African-American, that is a big shift from the 1960s, so I think that those numbers are indicative that we are embracing the mission of diversity and attempting to promote that, again, we have to be vigilant in this because I think if there's any roll back, we are set back from our mission," says O'Brien.
Obrien say the issue of affirmative action is of particular concern to larger universities like The university of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.
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