On the Future of Equal Opportunity in our Nation

By Maritza Guzman: Director, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management

On October 10, 2012 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case; and while a decision could come at any time, it is not likely until spring or early summer 2013.  Fisher challenges the use of race as one of several factors when promoting diversity in university admissions. It is the first case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court since the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld an admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School and broadly affirmed the educational importance of diversity. The Fisher case is being watched nationwide as an important determinant of future inclusive admissions policies at public universities.

We live in a global economy that requires experience navigating diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. This critical skill best occurs in a setting with a diverse student body. Inclusive admissions policies are good for our nation and good for our economy. The University of Texas uses a fair process to look at factors, in addition to test scores, in order to expand opportunity and create a diverse learning environment that prepares students for the real world. Many students of color face extra obstacles to success not faced by others. When students do well despite these obstacles, the university should be able to give them the opportunity to succeed.  Please visit here to learn more about why equal opportunity is good for our nation.

Public Interest Projects and its partners work towards a society that ensures justice, dignity, and opportunity for all people.  For example, since 2004 the Fulfilling the Dream Fund has been devoted to promoting and protecting equal opportunity in our nation. Galvanized and anchored by then President of the Ford Foundation Susan V. Berresford, the Dream Fund was created in the wake of the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, and sprang from a belief in core American values – that everyone deserves a shot at achieving their potential.

Before it made final grants last year, the Fund supported a number of key efforts across the country that helped advance opportunity for all. This included research that informed the field, as they communicate why equal opportunity and policies that promote it are needed, fair and important to our nation.   Many of the groups supported by the Dream Fund continue their work to advance and protect equal opportunity. To learn more about what’s at stake in the Fisher v. University of Texas case see Civilrights.org Fisher v. Texas  and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Fisher v. Texas.

We’ve made great strides toward equal opportunity in this country. Our President embodies possibility and potential for all children of color. They now know that they can dream of one day becoming President of the United States. But there are still entrenched inequities across our nation. All too often, a child’s zip code dictates whether they attend a good school… or a substandard one. That child may have access to college placement courses…or none at all. Too often children of color face (and overcome) extraordinary barriers to a quality education. Those that apply to college are resilient and determined – precisely the qualities our society needs in future leaders and entrepreneurs. It is for these reasons that we must all continue a vigorous effort to make our nation’s colleges and universities opportunities for learning for all young people. And we must work to ensure that a quality education is offered to all of our country’s children long before they are old enough to even consider a college education.