The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear a case challenging Texas' "holistic"program of affirmative action in university admissions. My friend and UCLAW colleague Adam Winkler says the case "could end race-based affirmative action as we know it."
I'm not a constitutional law expert. I don't even play one on TV.
But I have spent 33 years in and around higher education as a student and faculty member. Based on my observations during those years, I've concluded that "holistic" admissions programs are the worst of all possible worlds. They're worse than either an outright ban on considering race or preferential racial quotas, because they are fundamentally dishonest. Either of the extremes at least has the virtue of transparency, but holistic admissions loves the darkness. As I wrote of UCLA's holistic admissions program:
The trouble with holistic admissions is that the readers don't have to explain why they make their admission decisions. They simply score the files. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the readers thus could systematically bias their scores so as to promote diversity, and no one would be the wiser. Even if required to offer an explanation for their scores, moreover, readers likely would point to some wrinkle other than race in each application that purportedly justified their decision.
Since holistic admissions are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, one hopes the Supreme Court will spit them out. Although I suppose that's not a very powerful Constitutional argument.