Creating Technology for Social Change

To Supreme Court, MIT defends using race in admissions

Today MIT and 13 other major universities submitted an amicus brief (PDF attached below) to the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of using race as a consideration in the admissions process.

The case is Fisher v. University of Texas. Oral arguments will be heard on Oct. 10, with a decision expected in early 2013.

The core of the schools’ brief is summed up on page 2:

In Amici’s experience, a diverse student body adds significantly to the rigor and depth of students’ educational experience. Diversity encourages students to question their own assumptions, to test received truths, and to appreciate the spectacular complexity of the modern world. This larger understanding prepares Amici’s graduates to be active and engaged citizens wrestling with the pressing challenges of the day, to pursue innovation in every field of discovery, and to expand humanity’s learning and accomplishment.

They are right. But the justices (minus Justice Kagan, who has recused herself) are certain to ask this question, which seems silly but is central: “Is the only way to ensure diversity of race and ethnicity to take into account applicants’ race and ethnicity?”

Or to put it in Scalian parlance: “Amici have told this Court that they — these most intelligent people — that they haven’t figured out how to encourage students to ‘question their own assumptions, to test received truths, to appreciate the spectacular complexity of the modern world’ without resorting to discrimination based on race? Can that really be true? Are we to say that prior to the University of Texas instituting their policy, it was unable to graduate students who were ‘active and engaged citizens’, pursuing ‘innovation in every field of discovery’? I find that hard to believe. If we as a country are to stop discriminating on the basis of race, shouldn’t we stop discriminating on the basis of race?”

This case has flown somewhat under the radar, but I think the University of Texas’s policy has a good chance of being struck down.

What do you think?