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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].