Will Texas Tech Deal Portend the Erosion of Affirmative Action?

May 14, 2019

There are a number of reasons we continue to see a lack of diversity in higher education and many professions, despite decades of genuine efforts by countless individuals and institutions to change that. One common explanation is sometimes called the "pipeline effect." Basically, we don’t see as many women in executive positions in STEM industries because they don't enter those industries at the same rate as men. Fewer women at the start of the pipeline ultimately means fewer choices when we want to promote someone to a more senior position.

 

As a remedy for this, there have been numerous efforts to boost the representation of and participation by women and people of color at various stages of the pipeline. This could include mentorship programs for traditionally under-represented groups within a company. Or it could include diversity-oriented apprenticeship programs and recruitment efforts to help bring those groups into the company in the first place. Even further towards the start of the pipeline are efforts to increase the diversity of populations in higher education through admissions policies that consider race and national origin.

 

Texas Tech Medical School To End Use Of Race In Admissions

 

Recently, those admissions policies were dealt a blow in an agreement reached between the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Education. "The agreement states that the school of medicine will stop considering race and/or national origin 'as part of the holistic admissions process'," says  Ellie Kaufman in an article for CNN. "If the school decides to use race as a factor in the admissions process again, it must notify the Department of Education and provide a "reasoned, principled explanation" for why it plans to do so, according to the agreement."

 

Future of Affirmative Action

 

Kaufman adds that a 2016 Supreme Court decision, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, established a new standard for using affirmative action in the college admissions process while upholding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, allowing the use of affirmative action so long as it could stand up to strict scrutiny. Unlike that case, the agreement between Texas Tech and the Department of Education doesn't have any binding precedential effect on other schools. Texas Tech says it still believes its policy was valid but entered into the deal in order to resolve the matter and move on.

 

Still, it's unlikely that the deal will go unnoticed by other institutions of higher education considering their admissions policies and whether their goal of a more diverse student body is worth a fight with the Department of Education.

 

How might efforts like this hinder your organization's ability to get top candidates from underrepresented groups into your organization? 

 

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