Most Beacon readers disapprove of court decision

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Like the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, Rochester Beacon readers are sharply divided on affirmative action. But the court’s conservative supermajority and most respondents to a reader poll stand on opposite sides of the issue.

The high court last Thursday ruled, 6-3, that race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the ruling does not prohibit universities from “considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise. … (But) the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race.”

Sixty-three percent of Beacon readers who took part in the poll said they disapproved of the decision.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor likely spoke for them in her dissent, writing that “the court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.”

The poll was conducted Wednesday. More than 250 readers participated. Asked about their political affiliation, 60 percent answered Democrat, 25 percent identified themselves as independent, 9 percent said Republican and 5 percent chose “other.”

While 83 percent of Democrats in the reader poll disapproved of the court’s decision, Republicans were unanimous in their approval. Among independents, 65 percent approved.

Readers’ views also varied widely by the race or ethnicity of the respondent. Sixty-three percent of white respondents disapproved of the ruling, compared with 80 percent of Hispanics and 53 percent of Blacks. Among Asian respondents, opinions were evenly divided between approval and disapproval.

National polls conducted before and after the Supreme Court decision was announced offer a mixed picture of where Americans stand on affirmative action. In a Pew Research Center poll conducted this spring, 50 percent of respondents said they disapproved of colleges and universities considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions; 33 percent approved and 16 percent were not sure.

By contrast, an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted June 30-July 1 found 52 percent in favor of affirmative action and 32 percent opposed; 16 percent answered “don’t know.”

In another decision last week impacting higher education institutions and their students, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, against President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel more than $400 billion in student loan debt for millions of borrowers. The court’s conservative majority held that the program required congressional approval.

Nearly 26 million borrowers have filed applications to have some of their student loan debt erased; of those, 16 million applications have been approved. When legal challenges were brought against the program, the government halted acceptance of applications and no debts have been forgiven.

Asked about this court decision, Beacon readers were evenly split.

Respondents also were asked to share their thoughts on these court decisions. The following are the complete signed written responses of survey participants. A number of additional unsigned responses were submitted. As a matter of policy, the Beacon does not post unsigned comments.

I can live with both decisions although I disagree with the decision on affirmative action. But what concerns me is the conservative direction of the court. What’s next?
—David Powe

I am not well informed about the loan forgiveness program. I would like those who took loans beyond any prospect of repaying, and may have been conned into worthless for profit “schools.” Forgiving across the board could have unforeseen consequences. The college admissions ruling is correct, and will not be a disaster for minorities. Talent and effort will prevail. Ivy education is not a prerequisite for success in life in America.
—Anthony Mittiga

White Supremacy is America’s Original Sin and it is contagious.
—Thomas John Driscoll

Why is equality so difficult to understand? What makes humans so stingy as to deny others a hand up?
—Ervina Donovan

I have very mixed feelings about both of these issues but I don’t think the Democratic Party should place either of these issues at the forefront of our campaign platform because they are very divisive and involve elevating some citizens at the expense of others. In my view, the hills worth dying on are reproductive choice and gun violence.
—Joanne Giuffrida

This activist court, notwithstanding its purported conservatism, has once again overturned precedent and reliance now on abortion, having unduly adversely impacted the country as they did in the Heller and Citizens United decisions dealing with gun control and campaign finance, respectively.
—Nathan J. Robfogel

This is about more than just strict interpretation and the letter of the law. There’s no doubt that Affirmative Action is/was technically untenable (reverse discrimination). That part is easy. Does the current majority think their predecessors, the ones who put the law in place, didn’t know that? Today’s court missed the point. This law had always been about balancing the scales, an effort to start to make up for the last 200+ years. From my standpoint, many of us rely on/trust in the court to understand things we just never could. When it appears, like it does now, that this and other recent decisions seem to be more about the courts’ political positions and opinions and less about what the rest of us don’t/can’t understand, and when those positions are out of touch with today’s general population, it erodes that trust/belief and we’ve got a problem.
—Michael Anderson Stone

This Court is a disgrace.
—Jessie Marvin Lazeroff

Justice Jackson — Exhibit A why affirmative action is a bad idea.
—Gary VanGraafeiland

I am so saddened and angry by a primarily right wing SCOTUS that is, piece by piece, dismantling the gain we have made towards some degree of equity and justice. I never thought I would live to see this and now I am watching so much fall apart and back into dark times.
—Mary Brett

Affirmative action has helped to create diverse student bodies and has helped many African Americans increase their career opportunities and socio-economic status. If universities are to be totally focused on merit in their admissions, then they should also be forced to end their legacy programs. I have encountered many less qualified, less able legacy students at elite universities that I have attended. They were not only “full pay” students, but their parents also wrote those universities six, seven, and eight figure checks to facilitate non-merit based admittance.
—Brad VanAuken

SCOTUS has perverted their interpretation of constitutional law to meet the majority of the Justices’ political biases. We need to overhaul the Supreme Court, either with expansion, or term limits, or both.
—Paul Kingsley

Our country has much work to do to fulfill the promise of yesterday’s 4th of July celebration for ALL Americans and not just for the privileged, monarchied class at the time which we fought against then and yet white and class privilege still rules us today.
—Bill Wynne

I feel the criteria on student loans was too broad. It should be restricted to low and moderate income students only. Not middle or higher incomes.
—Tom Swartz

I think there should be more limits on the student loan forgiveness program OR there should at the very least be total forgiveness at the previously noted limits on interest payments and on interest that can be charged for student loans. But the issue stems primarily from the high costs of college in the US, much of that cost emanating from support of athletic programs and pricey student facilities that are nice, but are not necessary for learning.
—Ruth Yanoff

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

8 thoughts on “Most Beacon readers disapprove of court decision

  1. You know after reading all those responses, why don’t we have China come in and take over. We live in such a bad, bad place. Interesting to note that the education business is teaching that we are that bad nation. While those institutions of higher learning are “educating” our next generation, they are racking up millions in dollars and cents. ( some billions). They bash this nation, create hate, stir up the masses and get paid for it. Let’s point the finger in the direction of the problem, it’s us. We vote in those who are incompetent and then blame the opposition. Think we have a problem? Look in the mirror.

    • Far from being guilty of “teaching that we are a bad nation”, or (as you so colorfully phrased it) getting paid to, “bash this nation, create hate, (and) stir up the masses”, today’s educator’s are actually teaching the factual story of the interaction on this continent of European colonizers, the Indigenous Peoples who died by the millions from the effects of diseases and slavery resulting from that colonization, and those Africans who were dragged here in chains, also dying by the millions, to serve those Europeans for almost 250 years.

      I know that teaching reality rather than the sugar-coated and literally white-washed story book version of history which has been so favored by many Americans over the years must be a shock to those of the conservative mindset.

      Since one can not rationally classify the teaching of facts as bashing, creating hate, or stirring up the “masses”, it would be illiberal of me to disregard your comments altogether. So may I offer you the opportunity to provide SPECIFIC examples of where and how those educator are misrepresenting or even out-right lying about the history and development of the relationships of the various racial and ethnic groups who make up our country?

  2. From an education point of view, we graduate approximately 50% of our high school students. They are not prepared, for the most part, to survive the first semester of higher education. The other 50% drops out. So how is this a problem? The problem is that the system of education in urban Rochester fails the youth. The teachers union is more interested in….dah money!
    Decades of failing kids. Decades. It’s not the kids…it’s the system. Those with higher education certificates on their office walls deny the kids an opportunity to attain theirs. Pretty sad.

    • Let’s see. So if everyone in the RCSD with a New York State teaching certificate and the attendant mandatory bachelor’s degree is denying students an opportunity to obtain an education, what about those with an advanced degree? For example, does someone with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree hanging on their wall deny twice as many kids an opportunity to attain a higher education than someone with just a single degree?

      Does obtaining tenure as a teacher increase the level of denial arithmetically or geometrically?

      What about the subject matter being taught? Are science or math teachers more or less responsible for denying kids an education than a music or English teacher?

      If a teacher transfers to the RCSD from another school district, do they immediately begin denying their new students an education? Or is there a ramp up period?

      Inquiring minds want to know!

  3. A good discussion on the issue except for one comment, ” Justice Jackson- Exhibit A why affirmative action is a bad idea.” Uninformed racism should not be posted. It adds nothing but hate and we already know there is plenty. Anyone who reads law and has read Justice Jackson’s opinions on the lower Court, and her opinions on the Supreme Court, could easily see she is smarter and knows the law better than the six GOP judges. She is not one of SC Judges twisting and contorting to overturn decades of precedent on worker’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, and women’s healthcare. She has not relied on a 17th century English judge who sentenced women to hang for witchcraft in any decision or belonged to catholic cults like Justice Barrett or Alito and his Opus Dei, fascist Franco’s partner in Spain until his death in 1975. What is really unfair to Justice Jackson is that it has been reported from multiple credible media sources that the number one beneficiary of affirmative action has been white women. In elite schools’ legacy admissions account for over 30% of students, which is mostly affirmative action for white rich people. George W. Bush even bragged about how a “C” student could go to Yale and become President. He was a legacy admit and never said how he was born on 3rd base and the pitcher then threw a wild pitch. He worked out well. Racist talking points from those that dismiss any and all achievement by minorities as due to affirmative action add nothing and should not be posted.

  4. I’m surprised that the Beacon left off its poll the Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, in which a business owner was permitted to deny service to a customer based in that business owner’s alleged religious beliefs, thereby opening the floodgates to future empowerment of bigotry by bible. Surely the long-term implications of this ruling, correctly labeled by Justice Sonia Sotomayor as, “a license to discriminate”, are as great as, if not far greater, than the Court’s ruling against affirmative action and student loan cancellation.

  5. I have been directly impacted by problems related to the high cost of college and higher education. Living in a rural area, I am able to have horses on my property, and for years we used a veterinary clinic that serviced both large and small animals. In the past few years, the number of veterinarians willing to work in a mixed practice has plummeted. The extremely high cost of veterinary school forces veterinarians to take jobs that pay the most, and those are the jobs in small animal clinics. We had a vet come to our house for the last time, and she told us that she is $500,000 in debt. As a side effect, there is a very high suicide rate among veterinarians. Another side effect is that there are few emergency veterinary emergency services available. This led us to put a dog to sleep before we wanted to. He was at risk of breaking a leg due to degenerative myelopathy and we didn’t want to face an emergency situation. I went to college in the late 1970s, and graduate school in 1991. I was able to avoid taking out loans, and that is the way it should be. College, including medical school, veterinary school, and other graduate programs should be available to those who qualify at a reasonable cost. Lastly, during my career I worked for a for-profit college, and my heart goes out to those students, who now have huge loans hanging over their heads and are barely qualified for entry-level positions that won’t pay enough to support their families. I never had student loans, but I believe strongly that they should be forgiven, and that the cost of all college education must come down. Everyone deserves an education that will allow them to be a contributing member of society.

  6. In my experience, the hearts and minds of people are changed more by personal experiences than by legislation. Legislation is a way for society to attempt to come to grips with its racial problems but its limited success over the years suggests that other means should be developed to help accomplish this. Why not try something like having academic institutions with underrepresented minorities collaborate with institutions with overrepresented minorities to replace their Junior year abroad programs with Junior years at institutions with disparate racial populations such as having the Ivy and Black Colleges develop year away programs where students spend their junior(or other suitable year) at a counterpart college? Although this could be difficult to administrate by the Academic institutions, I put it forth as one example of lateral thinking that I believe this problem urgently requires.

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