Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Opinion | The Supreme Court ends its term — and a whole lot else

Opinion | The Supreme Court ends its term — and a whole lot else

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The court term is over. So is affirmative action.

For the second time in as many years, the conservative majority Supreme Court has turned long-standing, previously reaffirmed precedent into toast. We’re talking affirmative action, although LGBTQ+ rights and student loan forgiveness also emerged acrid and charred at the end of the court’s term. But more on those later.

Columnist Gene Robinson, who has eyes and can see that diversity is good for college campuses, writes that the court “went out of its way to ignore history, precedent and reality.”

A lot of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s opinion rides on his assertion that there is no way to adequately measure the benefits of intentionally building a multicultural college, but Gene says that’s simply untrue.

Columnist Ruth Marcus’s response to the decision is chock-full of stats to back that up. Harvard University, one of the colleges that was successfully sued, can count on student achievement dropping “across multiple dimensions” as diversity decreases. Aside from that, university systems that previously eschewed affirmative action saw precipitous drops in Black enrollment.

And one friend-of-the-court brief Ruth quotes is a chilling reminder of how much this matters in the real world, post-graduation: “For high-risk Black newborns, having a Black physician is tantamount to a miracle drug: it more than doubles the likelihood that the baby will live.”

“These are factual findings,” Ruth writes, “undisturbed and unrefuted by the high court.”

Even setting aside the statistics, Gene writes, all it should take is a look at the country’s history to see how important race-conscious admissions are. He recalls growing up in a state whose universities had a very effective, dead-simple affirmative action policy favoring Whites: “No Black people allowed.”

The Editorial Board, standing over the sink scraping the burnt bits off once-usable precedent, tries to chart a path forward: “Many universities will replace race-conscious policies with diversity-promoting alternatives that might more easily survive legal attack, and they should.”

Among other ideas, the board targets the “legacy” admissions of children of alumni, and proposes boosting applicants with low family wealth, a decent stand-in for the racial equity gap. As data proves, nothing will have the same oomph as weighing race, but, for now at least, these could be a moderate step toward diversity.

The real problem, as columnist Chuck Lane writes, is that the Supreme Court is fresh out of moderates. He looks at the 1978 case (and the 2003 one that reaffirmed it) that this week’s decision reworked and sees cautious and bipartisan — if “amorphous” — opinions that would seem out of place today.

Columnist George Will, on the other hand, rules those precedents “unhelpful” and flinching. This term’s affirmative-action case was, he writes, correctly decided and a “helpful skirmish” in the fight to resurrect the standard of colorblindness.

George is also at odds with the Editorial Board; he says universities’ new “surreptitious and disguised preferences … will deepen public cynicism about higher education, as its prestige leaks away.”

So be it. With student loan forgiveness eviscerated, who can afford it anyway?

Chaser: After the news dropped, Black columnists Christine Emba and Perry Bacon hopped on the mic for a quickfire podcast reacting to the end of affirmative action. You can listen and read some edited excerpts here.

From columnist Dana Milbank’s chronicle of how he “learned to stop worrying and love chemicals.”

Dana’s reporting from his own patch of land out in rural Virginia reveals that even some of the most ecologically minded among us — the environmental stewards of the nation’s parks system — recognize herbicide as a necessary evil. Those person-hours add up fast considering that non-native intruders have turned 2.5 million acres of Shenandoah into a not-so-little shop of horrors.

So Dana has learned to “hack and squirt” through his land, selectively spritzing it with what one native-plant expert thinks of as chemotherapy against “ecological tumors.” It’s medicine that seems worth the side effects when you read Dana’s roundup (sorry) of all the ill effects invasives can have.

Chaser: Based on contributing columnist Ted Johnson’s recent paean to mowing the lawn, you know he’s giving dandelions no quarter.

Last week, Post Opinions ran three different pieces on the Titan submersible tragedy:

  • One by adventure journalist Brandon Presser on the ruthlessness of the sea.
  • One from columnist Molly Roberts about the unrepentant cruelty that characterized jokes about the vessel.
  • And one from journalist Sam Howe Verhovek that defended the late chief executive of the submersible firm as an adventurer in his own right.

Seeing as half the world was armchair-hunting for the lost sub, each piece drew tons of comments from readers — in many cases disagreeing with the writers’ arguments. “It’s called gallows humor,” one wrote, or, “Nobody on the trip, besides the gung-ho CEO, had any control.”

This time, the writers wrote back, clarifying their arguments in a sort of point-counterpoint conversation with readers. You can read both sides here. And the comments are, of course, open, in case you’ve got a counter-counterpoint.

  • Post Grad fellow Renee Yaseen explains why online dating isn’t a perfect match for Generation Z, who’s increasingly swiping left on the apps themselves.
  • A Hong Kong lawyer resisted airbrushing history, the Editorial Board writes. Now, she’s in jail.
  • Cartoonist Edith Pritchett imagines some other safety features Meta might want to consider.

Summer marches onward, and hopefully a long weekend (can we say four days?) awaits. But before you go, here’s my behind-the-scenes with contributing columnist Rick Reilly: Just what was it like crossing the country with the world’s most frequent flier? And how do you even meet Mr. 23 Million Miles? Listen here.

Now, it’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s … The Bye-Ku.

The future is far starker

Plus! A Friday bye-ku (Fri-ku!) from reader Scott H.:

Have to put up with leaders

Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. See you Monday for one quick newsletter before the Fourth!

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