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US Supreme Court to take up college reservation case impacting Indians

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New York: The US Supreme Court is set to take up next week a case challenging the legality of reservations based on race in colleges and university admissions that adversely impact the Indian diaspora.

The case questions the use of race as a criterion for admission by Texas University in affirmative action programmes saying it violates the constitutional guarantee of equality for all.

Universities say they are meant to help disadvantaged communities like those of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans and to ensure diversity. The use of race in admissions sometimes turn into racial quotas similar to caste-based reservations in India and hurt Indian Americans and other Asians.

Indians, along with other Asians, are treated as the equivalent of a most-forward community and are therefore affected even more than whites when quotas are used by universities. The universities assert that quotas or similar affirmative action programmes are needed to ensure diversity in the student body.

Because of this Asians have been required by some of the top universities to score much higher than whites in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a common entrance exam, which is one of the determinants of admission. This is meant to prevent the student body being dominated by Asians, who get higher SAT scores and school grades.

If the Supreme Court prohibits using race as a factor for admissions in the Texas case, more high-scoring Indians and other Asians will be able to enter Ivy League and other elite universities purely on their merit.

The case that the Supreme Court is to hear was brought by a white woman who said the use of race violated her right to equality guaranteed by the US Constitution as many who ranked lower than she was admitted while she was turned away.

Indian diaspora organisations, along with other Asian groups, have complained to the federal government about what they said was the discrimination faced by students from their communities in admissions to Harvard University.

Community leader Thomas Abraham told IANS, “Our children compared to white students have to be much ahead to get admission. Even if they are at the top of the class and have outstanding extracurricular activity record, they still face discrimination in admission.” He added, “My own daughter felt this when she applied to colleges.”

This was because universities were using intangible ways of grading to eliminate qualified students from Asian communities, he said. “We only want that the most qualified students should be admitted on the basis of uniform criteria and the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution,” he added.

Abraham is the founder-president of the Global Organisation of Persons of Indian Origin, a former president of the National Federation of Indian-American Associations and a board member of the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin. These three organisations, along with the BITS Sindri Alumni Association of North India, were signatories to the complaint against Harvard, which was seen as the starting point in their campaign to deal with the problem in all institutions.

The complaint said, “Many Asian-American students who have almost perfect SAT scores, top 1 percent GPAs (grade point average), plus significant awards or leadership positions in various extracurricular activities have been rejected by Harvard University and other Ivy League Colleges while similarly situated applicants of other races have been admitted.”

It cited a study by a Princeton University academic that found Asian-American students had to score 140 points more in the SAT than whites for admission to some elite universities.

The Federal Office of Civil Rights dismissed the complaint because it said a federal case on similar grounds was filed last year by another group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), against Harvard and its outcome will be binding. That group has also filed a similar case against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Harvard University has asked the court hearing the case against it to delay the proceedings till the Supreme Court decides on the Texas University case. Therefore, Supreme Court ruling will determine how Indian-American and other Asian-American students are treated in college and university admissions.

Quotas were used in first half of the last century against Jews because of their high academic performance compared to that of Christians. In its court filing, SFFA accused Harvard of “using racial classifications” for “the same brand of invidious discrimination against Asian Americans that it formerly used to limit the number of Jewish students in its student body.”

(IANS)

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Will sexual misconduct scandals make Men more cautious towards Women?

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Sexual scandals may wary men's behavioral instincts
FILE - In a Feb. 3, 2015, file photo, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is photographed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Some women, and men, worry that the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about harassment could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Sandberg recently wrote that she hoped the outcry over harassment doesn’t “have the unintended consequence of holding women back.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Sexual Scandals are the new low in business industry
  • Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work
  • Gender comes as a barrier in interaction

Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues.

Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer.

“I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post .

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.”

Sexual Scandals
From left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accompanied by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois., and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, speaks at a news conference where she and other members of congress introduce legislation to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Gillibrand and fellow female Democratic senators have united in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business “are terrified.”

“There’s a feeling of this wall that wasn’t there that is suddenly up because they don’t know what’s appropriate anymore — it’s disconcerting,” Quincoces said. “I feel that they’re more careful, more formal in their relationships with co-workers. And I can’t say I blame them, because what’s happened is pervasive. Every day there’s a new accusation.”

She said many of the men she knows are now avoiding one-on-one social occasions that were normal in the past.

“This is going to trickle down into all industries. … It’s going to become the new normal,” Quincoces said. “It’s a good thing because women are not afraid anymore, but on the other side, it’s a slippery slope.”

Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work: A New York Times/Morning Consult poll of 5,300 men and women last spring found almost two-thirds thought workers should be extra careful around opposite-sex colleagues, and around a quarter thought private work meetings between men and women were inappropriate.

But in a season of outcry over sexual misconduct, some men are suddenly wondering whether they can compliment a female colleague or ask about her weekend. Even a now-former female adviser to the head of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party suggested on Facebook that men would stop talking to women altogether because of what she portrayed as overblown sexual misconduct claims.

Certain managers are considering whether to make sure they’re never alone with a staffer, despite the complications of adding a third person in situations like performance reviews, says Philippe Weiss, who runs the Chicago-based consultancy Seyfarth Shaw at Work.

Philadelphia employment lawyer Jonathan Segal says some men are declaring they’ll just shut people out of their offices, rather than risk exchanges that could be misconstrued.

“The avoidance issue is my biggest concern, because the marginalization of women in the business world is at least as big a problem as harassment,” Segal says. A recent report involving 222 North American companies found the percentage of women drops from 47 percent at the entry level to 20 percent in the C suite.

Vice President Mike Pence has long said he doesn’t have one-on-one meals with any woman except his wife and wants her by his side anywhere alcohol is served, as part of the couple’s commitment to prioritizing their marriage. The guidelines have “been a blessing to us,” the Republican told Christian Broadcasting Network News in an interview this month.

Employment attorneys caution that it can be problematic to curb interactions with workers because of their gender, if the practice curtails their professional opportunities. W. Brad Johnson, a co-author of a book encouraging male mentors for women, says limiting contact sends a troubling message.

“If I were unwilling to have an individual conversation with you because of your gender, I’m communicating ‘you’re unreliable; you’re a risk,’” says Johnson, a U.S. Naval Academy psychology professor.

Jessica Proud, a communications professional and Republican political consultant in New York City, said it would be wrong if this national “day of reckoning” over sexual misconduct resulted in some men deciding not to hire, mentor or work with women. She recalled a campaign she worked on where she was told she couldn’t travel with the candidate because of how it might look.

“I’m a professional, he’s a professional. Why should my career experience be limited?” she said. “That’s just as insulting in a lot of ways.” VOA