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An education law professor on why race should be considered in college applications: NPR

NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks with Dana Thompson Dorsey of the University of South Florida about the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action.


We bring Dana Thompson Dorsey. She teaches education and politics at the University of South Florida in Tampa—she joined us earlier to talk about it. She is an advocate of affirmative action in education. Welcome back.

And we’re not listening to Professor Dorsey. We’re going to talk here just for a moment about this Supreme Court ruling and see if we can get it back. We note that we are considering a United States Supreme Court ruling delivered from the bench, as they say, this morning, in which Chief Justice John Roberts spoke for the majority — 6 to 3 majority, 6 to 2 in part of the decision – in which the court found it improper for Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to use race as one of several factors when considering university admissions.

And now we have Dana Thompson Dorsey. Professor Dorsey, welcome back.

DANA THOMPSON DORSEY: Thank you. Can you hear me?

INSKEEP: Yes, I hear you right. I hope you were able to hear at least some of the summary of Nina Totenberg’s sentence, and I’m sure you have read it too where you are. What do you think?

THOMPSON DORSEY: Well, you know, the decision was disappointing, but not surprising. I think most of us expected that that would be the decision. I was listening to Nina Totenberg talk about Judge Roberts’ decision and the 14th amendment and how that was supposed to lead to true equality. But, of course, we had Jim Crow. I think we would all like to believe that this is what the 14th amendment was supposed to do. He did not. We still live in an American society where structural racism and discrimination are rife. This cannot be denied, even and especially in education.

INSKEEP: The Harvard University — description in the ruling of Harvard University’s undergraduate candidate selection process finally said four factors could give people an extra edge. One was participation in athletics, one was a need for financial aid, one was legacy: Did your father, grandfather, and grandmother go to Harvard University? – and one was race. Only one of these four special considerations was cut today.


INSKEEP: Was that correct in your opinion?

THOMPSON DORSEY: Well, no, I disagree. But race is also scrutinized at a much higher level of judicial scrutiny. It’s called rigorous control and it’s a very high level to achieve, unlike when it comes to income or bequests. This would be a lower level of analysis called the rationale. So why I disagree with the decision — I understand why they made this decision because race as a factor is — is a very difficult hurdle to overcome when you’re talking about judicial review.

INSKEEP: OK, tell me about the possibilities of what universities could do now. We started that discussion with Nina.


INSKEEP: Do you see ways universities could pursue this goal in light of this ruling? If you’re a college president, a college president and you think, I want to have a diverse student body, I don’t want to end up with a bunch of people, I want to make sure that happens in my admissions process, do you see a way they could go about that?

THOMPSON DORSEY: Yes, absolutely. I know Judge Roberts even mentioned in his decision that students may still discuss how race has affected their lives when writing their own essays. They could talk about how they had to overcome some problems in terms of discrimination or attending a school where they didn’t have AP courses – advanced placement – or international matriculation courses, which gives a boost to many students and – who live in richer countries zones. But now they can, I guess, use other factors that have been used as a proxy for race, such as whether students are economically disadvantaged, whether they are first-generation college students, considering multiple geographic locations where students come from across the country or across the country. the world, or even within a particular community within a state.

TEACH: OK. I think we are just starting this discussion. Dana Thompson Dorsey, Professor Dorsey, thank you very much.

THOMPSON DORSEY: Thanks for inviting me.

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