Affirmative Action

Americans are deeply conflicted on addressing discrimination--many acknowledge that discrimination is still a problem for society, but there is also a strong public sentiment that people already have access to the same opportunities regardless of race and ethnicity. Affirmative Action is a powerful example of this challenge: most acknowledge that affirmative action programs help people of color, and that disadvantaged groups want equal rights as opposed to “special rights,” but opinion is split as to whether affirmative action is a zero-sum game. The fact that most major news on Affirmative Action comes through the courts, rather than through a publicly debated legislative process, only reinforces this confusion.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, concerning the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin’s diversity admissions policy. The Court’s ruling preserved key techniques for considering racial and ethnic diversity as one factor among many in a carefully crafted admissions policy, but it also sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration because of how the opinion was constructed.

The Opportunity Agenda developed messages and tools for advocates to ensure that this vital case opened up a broader conversation about how we can and why we must open up our post-secondary educational institutions to more Americans.