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Smolla on affirmative action, admission and the Constitution

MARCH 1, 2012
by Allison Davey ’14, Contributing Writer

“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” President Smolla quoted the famous line from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to conclude his talk about the U.S. Constitution and college campuses.

Smolla, an expert on the Constitution and its ties to college campuses, addressed a crowd of 30 students 7 p.m., Wednesday. His talk explored how legal theories have shaped modern universities. He also devoted ample time to affirmative action and financial aid.

In his presentation, Smolla addressed the audience by asking them their ideas about how the Constitution applied to campuses across the nation, and what is constitutional when it comes to awarding finances and focusing on diversity, through the use of multiple choice questions.

Smolla, who has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, addressed the idea of distributing wealth among students and how it pertains to financial aid. He discussed the use of talents to determine, through the use of a complicated formula, how scholarships and grants are distributed amongst students attending college.

The discussion revolved more around affirmative action, referencing past and current cases pertaining to the topic. Smolla spoke fondly of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, who “spoke passionately as a prophet” contesting that the Constitution is colorblind, and tied the case of Fisher vs. Texas to Furman’s own admission process.

The case, which is currently in process, will determine whether or not it is legal for college campuses to make decisions of student admission based on racial and ethnic diversity. For Furman, Smolla believes that our new admission strategy will keep us “very well positioned for a soft landing” should the court rule against the use of an individual’s race for admission to a university.

The use of more admissions counselors and Furman’s goal to evaluate all characteristics of the prospective students allows the admission office to feel secure that the ruling will have little impact on current admission practices.

Last updated March 1, 2012
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