Abigail Fisher, Affirmative Action, and why we need to drop the term 'colour blindness'
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On Wednesday the Supreme Court in America (pictured) heard renewed oral arguments in the ongoing Fisher vs. University of Texas case. The case, which was originally put forward in 2008, revolves around Abigail Fisher, a student rejected from the University of Texas. Fisher claims that the university's race-conscious admissions policy is inherently discriminatory and favoured less capable minorities over her. Ms Fisher, who is now a Louisiana State graduate, rests her case on the belief that she was purposefully disadvantaged because she is white. The case has generated dialogue and polarising debate about the Affirmative action policies which grant special consideration in issues such as employment and education to historically excluded groups in America. Unfortunately Ms Fisher’s case has little to do with affirmative action, because her claims that she has been discriminated against are misguided at best and at worst intentionally misrepresented. The University of Texas has a two tiered system for dealing with its applicants. The first tier of applicants, which consisted of 81% of the freshman pool for 2008, were selected from Texas residents who graduated in the top 10% of their high school class - an approach which can be argued is ‘colourblind’ (whatever that means). The second tier is a highly competitive small number of spaces that are left to non-Texas residents and Texas residents who were not in the top ten percent of their classes. Ms Fisher did not qualify for the first tier. The selection process within the second tier consisted of weighting the applicants on the basis of their ‘Academic Index’ and ‘Personal Achievement.’ The Academic Index, according to the University of Texas, “is computed based upon the applicant’s high school class rank, high school curriculum and exam scores”. The Personal Achievement Index is based on scores on two essays, and the Personal Achievement score based upon a review of the applicant’s entire file.
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