The United States Supreme Court looks like it might be getting ready to overturn its own 2003 decision Gratz v. Bollinger, which upheld the right of college admissions committees to take race into account while deciding which students to accept. That’s bad news for Claremont community members of all racial backgrounds, since everyone benefits from the progress that our schools have made toward building diverse student bodies. We stand with the 5C administrators who have spoken in favor of pro-diversity admissions policies, and we hope that the Supreme Court will consider the negative consequences of requiring race-blind admissions.
We agree with admissions officers like Harvey Mudd College’s Thyra Briggs, who told The Student Life this week that “diversity is essential to providing our students with the best education possible.” (See Kara Freedman’s article on Page 1 for more on what diversity means to 5C admissions officers.) Liberal arts colleges are supposed to open their students’ minds by exposing them to all kinds of ideas and introducing them to all kinds of people. The goal should be to maximize intellectual variety by recruiting students who have had many different experiences. That means including people of all economic backgrounds, all religions, all genders, all sexual orientations and, yes, all races.
It would be nice to think that we live in a post-racial world, but race is still a significant part of our society’s organizing logic. Even after decades of progress on civil rights, opportunity is unevenly distributed among racial groups, and pervasive stereotypes continue to marginalize people of color. Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, even if they have no bad intentions, too often succumb to the us-and-them style of racial thinking. If institutions of higher education do not encourage their students to interact with peers of different races, these problems will only get worse.
Admissions officers in Claremont seem to understand these issues, and they must have noticed that racial diversity already has had a positive impact on education at the Claremont Colleges. Our academic programs in Africana Studies, Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies and Asian Studies would never have been founded without the influence of students of color, and those departments have only grown stronger as campus diversity has increased. All 5C students can benefit from these programs, which have broadened the range of perspectives and opinions represented in the Claremont curriculum.
We understand that there are valid arguments for both sides of the legal debate over affirmative action in the U.S., but we hope that the Supreme Court will not overlook the benefits that all college students receive from admissions policies that strive for racial diversity.