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Statement on Fisher v. University of Texas Attributed to Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Vice President for Program Strategy

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on why the University of Texas should be allowed to continue applying an admissions policy that helps create a diverse student body, one that is representative of the state’s growing multi-racial communities. At the private, independent W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), our work calls for healing the profound gaps and inequities that exist in our country, and places the health, education and well-being of children at the center of all we do. Thus, we steadfastly support college admission policies that identify qualified students of all races and also consider their academic achievements, leadership, racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status and athletic or artistic talent among other qualities.

Often this process is called affirmative action, a term that has become far too ambiguous and divisive in American society. It’s critical for our Supreme Court justices to look beyond the loaded wording to consider the immense value in providing educational opportunities for young people from diverse communities. In many ways, America’s future is at stake.

The population of the United States is swiftly moving towards majority minority. For America to stay strong, we must be competitive in the world. And that competitiveness begins with education. We must continue to nurture the best and the brightest at our colleges and universities. But the nation must recognize there may be a brilliant future physicist living in a Baltimore row house, a skilled mathematician being raised by parents who pick grapes in Napa Valley or a Native American child on a reservation in New Mexico who has what it takes to be a savvy military leader.

There is a shared national interest in providing educational opportunities. We are building a stronger America when young people from different backgrounds and perspectives interact and learn from each other in an educational setting. This better prepares our future leaders to represent America’s interests around the globe, where the ability to relate to different cultures is vital to achieving success in a global economy as well as in national security and keeping our communities safe.

The University of Texas, like other colleges and universities, seems to recognize that some of our brilliant young people are filled with boundless potential, but these students and their families are facing daily obstacles ranging from poverty to unconscious and implicit bias evident in education, health, housing, employment and other aspects of society. Admissions policies, such as those at the University of Texas, provide opportunities for young people to overcome these challenges.

WKKF applauds the University of Texas for striving to create a diverse student body, for helping ensure that there are opportunities for qualified students of all races and ethnicities to excel and make contributions to their communities and this nation. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold their right to do so.

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