Affirmative action case challenges race-conscious admissions policy in universities

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An interactive
lecture on the subject of race-conscious admissions policies took place Wednesday night at the K-State Alumni Center. 

Steven Ramirez,
professor of law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, presented
“Affirmative at the Crossroads: The Uncertain Future of Race-Conscious College
Admissions” to analyze an important case set for oral argument in the U.S
Supreme Court — Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin. 

The upcoming case addresses the use of a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas and concerns the constitutionality of a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that race can play a small role in admissions decisions, a practice commonly referred to as affirmative action.

As a part of
Ramirez’s speech, the audience was invited to participate in guided, small
group discussions on whether race should be considered in deciding college
admissions and how it can be done fairly. Ramirez cited statistics concerning the priorities of university admissions policies in the U.S., saying no less than 60 percent of elite universities reserve spots for students from rich families.

“The University
of Texas continued to use race as a factor in admitting some students despite a
state law authorizing automatic admission at a public university in Texas for
students in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class,” said
Michael Kaye, committee member for the lecture series and professor at Washburn University School of Law. “The law was intended to be used in a race-neutral manner and achieved a
measure of racial diversity.”

The packed house
exhibited the interest of K-State students and staff and Manhattan residents. The diverse audience included exchange students from Ecuador.

The event was part of the Dorothy L. Thompson Civil Rights Lecture Series, which was established to acknowledge her contributions to the field of human rights on campuses throughout Kansas and the nation. Thompson was involved with K-State from 1971 until her death in 1992. During that time she was the university’s director of affirmative action and associate university attorney.

The event was split up into three specific activities. Part one consisted of Ramirez
giving a presentation on the importance of the Fisher case, which challenges a university’s right to consider race and
ethnicity in deciding whether to admit student applicants. Part two involved
small group discussions concerning whether this policy violates the civil rights of some
applicants. Finally, the evening ended with reports and opinions on what the
groups talked about as well as closing remarks.

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