Latine students are feeling upset about SCOTUS’ decision to drop Affirmative Action for college decisions

The Supreme Court on Thursday dropped affirmative action policies for colleges/universities that use race as a means to determine “who gets in”

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Last Thursday marked a grim milestone for many.

SCOTUS made the decision to strike down affirmative action at colleges and universities that use this policy to decide who gets accepted. In the state of California, the UC and CSU systems will remain unaffected by this policy. USC President Carol Folt also announced on Thursday via Instagram that the Supreme Court’s decision was disappointing. She added that this decision will ultimately not impact USC’s commitment to creating a campus that is “welcoming, diverse, and inclusive to talented individuals from every background.”

What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action highlights the concept where the race of a college applicant will not be discriminated against when applying for a higher education. This would encourage diversity and discourage race-based discrimination among these institutions.

For decades, affirmative action has been used on college campuses and has allowed many students who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds to enroll in higher institutions. Those who have come from these backgrounds often identify as BIPOC. It is also no surprise that Latines make up a significant portion of those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds in the United States.

Steven Lepe, a rising senior majoring in Choral Music, commented about SCOTUS’ decision through his perspective as a Latine student. “Just because we cannot afford [going to college], it does not mean we don’t belong here.”

Lepe grew up in East Los Angeles, where the poverty rate is 17.6%, higher than the national average of 12.8%. Lepe also highlights how finances can act as a barrier to students who want to pursue higher education. “I think it’s super important for the Latine [community] to be a part of higher education because in the socioeconomic status, some are not able to go to school due to financial situations or due to generations of going straight to work right after middle school or high school.”

Latines make up 18 percent of the U.S. population. A third of those Latines are immigrants and they contribute over 2.3 trillion dollars in our economy. Despite this, Latines likely experience higher rates of unemployment, make 26 percent less compared to white workers, and are overall likely to be less educated compared to other racial groups as a result.

The reason as to why Latines are less likely to be educated has nothing to do with intelligence but rather refers back to Lepe’s statements about finances. Latines from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds often find themselves unable to make ends meet, resulting in many of these households containing parents who work long hours, the children in those same households working at another job, or a combination of both.

In addition, almost one-fifth of students in the United States are either attending a high-poverty school, living in poverty, or both. Latines, African Americans, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders make up a significant portion of that statistic. High-poverty schools also tend to have less academic resources for students. Students living in poverty face another set of challenges in their personal lives — affording health care. Having less access to medicine and health care due to high costs can lead to the detriment of the student’s health which can negatively impact their ability to academically succeed.

Mariana Torres, another rising senior majoring in Psychology, foresees the consequences of this decision in the long run. “You’re going to stop seeing as much diversity [...] like the conversations in the classroom are going to get more privileged,” Torres said.

As Latine students expressed areas of concern, incoming second year doctoral student and former admissions officer at the University of Vermont Sam Yang also shared his opinion regarding the decision. “Those who agree with [the decision] would say ‘oh this is what real equality looks like. We eliminate those unequal policies so that it’s like meritocracy.’ [...] They’re speaking from a very meritocracy perspective, which if you look at the history of meritocracy is whiteness.”

Yang acknowledges that this perspective is missing the much bigger picture, especially those who hail from communities with less resources. “They have to understand that this society is allocated by limited resources and those who benefit from those resources are those who distribute it or those who have the power to distribute it.”

Though affirmative action will mainly affect certain institutions, the diversity in those same institutions will likely diminish, building a barrier among students from less fortunate backgrounds. These students will be blocked from entering into the classroom, suppressing those who want to have a say in building a new world altogether. Yang said, “In education, the effect of an educator is not measured by numbers within a year, is not measured by some statistics. Within five years, it is being measured by how many leaders we produce and how much impact these leaders put on society.”