Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made a statement on Wednesday stating that black students may fare better academically at lower performing schools compared to their white counterparts.
He also suggested that there should be fewer black students in the University of Texas.
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) December 9, 2015
The statements were made during an affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas, where the complainant claims that the college’s admissions decisions are not constitutional. In the case, the university is being challenged for using race as basis for accepting 25 percent of its total freshman enrollees. As for the larger 75 percent, the university accepts any incoming freshmen that are part of the top 10 percent of their schools’ graduating class, a policy known as the Top Ten Percent program.
Incoming freshmen that are qualified for the Top Ten Percent program will be accepted regardless of race and other social factors. As part of the 25 percent, the complainant, a white student named Abigail Fisher, is challenging the “holistic” process by which the university refused to admit her when she applied in 2008 because of her race.
Former US Solicitor General Greg Garre, who is representing the University of Texas, explained that if race were not a factor in determining admissions for the remaining 25 percent, then most of that group would have white students.
— JP SchnapperCasteras (@jpscasteras) December 9, 2015
This is where Justice Scalia made the somewhat controversial remark. He said that “there are those” who claim that African Americans do not benefit from getting admitted in top universities like the University of Texas because they do not perform well in such institutions.
In contrast, Justice Scalia said that black students do better in “less-advanced” and “slower-track” schools because they are “not pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.” Scalia added that he is not impressed by the fact that the university has a small black student population, and argued that it should be smaller. “I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” Justice Scalia said.
— Brookings (@BrookingsInst) March 11, 2013
However, Garre disagreed with Scalia’s statement, saying that the solution to the student body diversity issue cannot be achieved by separating students from minority groups and placing them in other less-performing schools.
“If this court rules that the University of Texas can’t consider race, we know exactly what will happen: diversity will plummet, especially among African Americans,” said Garre.
Meanwhile, Carrie Severino, who is chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, defended Justice Scalia and said that he was not saying blacks are inferior students.
Severino pointed out that Justice Scalia was referring to the “mismatch theory” that was made popular by two authors, Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander.
“The idea is that if a student is admitted to a school they are not academically prepared for then they will not perform up to their own potential,” Severino said.
— ShakariSBriggs (@ShakariSBriggs) December 9, 2015
She add that the statement is merely a theory – a contested one – and that it does not mean that black students are “not as smart” as white students or that they are not as prepared in taking on classes at a top school or university.
Sander, who is a UCLA law professor, has also submitted a summary of his “mismatch theory” to the court for the Texas case.
The theory does not necessarily say that white students are better than black students because they are unable to keep up with the school’s academic requirements, as Justice Scalia seems to imply. However, the “mismatch” begins when a student has fewer preparations in his early education years due to financial incapacity and other factors, compared to a privileged student better-prepared to handle such situations.
[Image by Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images]