In June, the United States Supreme Court ruled to end affirmative action in college admissions, via the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case.
This means that colleges and universities across the nation may no longer use race and ethnicity as a factor in their admissions process.
In light of this, the student bar association at the University of La Verne held its affirmative action panel on Nov. 3 in the Morgan Auditorium. About 40 people showed up for the event.
“Affirmative action was an important tool to make sure minorities were included in educational institutions,” said Chris Ann Horsley, one of the five panelists and Bonita Unified School District board member. “Knowing that our society is attributing value to diversity, to see this new change is sad.”
Alongside Horsley were author and CEO of Advantage Health Now Alicia Coulter; Thomas Sone, a public defender for San Bernardino County; Thomas Allison, ULV assistant professor of legal studies; and Los Angeles-based lawyer Christopher Cruz.
Coulter said that affirmative action reminds her of a picture of three individuals standing on boxes to watch a baseball game over a fence. Because the three people were not the same height, the even-leveled boxes only helped those who were tall enough to see the game with minimal support, showcasing the difference between equality and equity. She said that this was an example of how a level playing field is almost insulting to even think would be sufficient in the admissions process.
“Even if there’s the appearance of a level playing field, we know people have different backgrounds and households,” Cruz said to piggyback off Coulter’s comment. “We don’t need the perception of equality, we need the achievement of equity.”
Cruz said that he is a firm believer that equality does not equal equity. He believes that we should still be studying the different demographic profiles and abilities of students in the U.S.
Junior legal studies major Lorena Huang said that she found the discussion interesting as the change in law will have effects on her family.
“I wanted to see what other people thought about this issue, especially since I have children who are growing up and might be affected (by) this,” Huang said.
Panelists were asked to share their thoughts on the statement that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.” To that, Allison said that the elimination of affirmative action in admissions is a decision that reflects white action and privilege.
“The Supreme Court court hid behind jargon to say one simple thing: This constitution is not made for minorities, it’s made to protect those who have money and who have power,” Allison said.
Knowing that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, student bar association president Evangelic Schuhmeier said this is going to be reflected in numerous decisions.
“Not only does getting rid of affirmative action affect one in education, but it also affects them in finding jobs and important opportunities,” Schuhmeier said. “The Supreme Court is telling us that they don’t care about minority groups.”
When looking at the future of affirmative action, Sone emphasized the importance of the 2024 election and the changes that will be made in the Supreme Court.
“If we don’t look at providing equity in marginalized communities, we’re not moving in the right direction,” Sone said.
Cruz said that things are different now and that we have to be careful with the way students are advised about their education.
Kara Coulter, a Cabrillo High School student who attended the event, said that she wants to hear the voices of students her age being affected by elimination of affirmative action.
“Though I know I will never get concrete answers, hearing about the removal of affirmative action made me want to seek out concrete voices,” Coulter said. “I would love to hear my generation talking about this issue.”
Jamal Mckissick, a South Hills High School student said that the panel made him realize that in order to create change, uncomfortable conversations need to happen.
“Usually, I’m scared to talk about uncomfortable topics, but the fact that it’s uncomfortable is a good thing,” Mckissick said.
Coulter said that being a panelist allowed her to use her voice to speak for those who are unable to.
Her advice to students going through the college admissions process is to go forth with confidence.
“If a university does not want you because of the color of your skin, then you do not want that university in your space either,” Coulter said.
All five panelists agreed that there is work that needs to be done. Audience members were encouraged to think about the importance of ethnicity and race in identity.
“Being color-blind dismisses a big part of a person’s identity,” Cruz said. “We must see color in order to work together.”
Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at email@example.com.