Brian Leiter discusses the Roots and Future of Affirmative Action

Is this the beginning of the end of affirmative action on college campuses?

SALT LAKE CITY — As several high-profile court cases reignite the debate over affirmative action, a new study has found that the vast majority of Americans say the college admissions process should be race-blind.

A Pew Research Center survey released Feb. 25 found that 73 percent of Americans say race should not be considered in college admissions decisions, while 19 percent say it should be a minor factor and 7 percent say it should be a major factor.

Nikki Graf, a research associate at Pew, said this was particularly true of white adults, 78 percent of whom don’t think race and ethnicity should be taken into account in college admissions decisions, compared to 65 percent of Hispanics, 62 percent of African-Americans, and 59 percent of Asians.

The survey comes at a time when affirmative action policies are under increased scrutiny. In July 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to reverse an Obama-era policy that directed universities to consider race during admissions decisions, instead encouraging them to implement “race-blind” admissions standards.


But what is affirmative action in higher education as we know it? And how does it contribute to the purpose of education as Americans understand it?

“Over the last 100 years, college has become increasingly important, and in the last 40 to 50 years a college degree has become what a high school degree once was," said Brian Leiter, professor of jurisprudence and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy and Human Values at the University of Chicago, adding that a college degree is essential for employment opportunities and social mobility.

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