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Expert Available: Fisher v. UT-Austin Supreme Court Case Could Negatively Impact Education, MU Expert says

USSC will hear oral arguments starting October 10

October 3rd, 2012

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Many experts believe that the Supreme Court is poised to strike down or substantially alter the 2003 opinion of the court, authored by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. If that opinion is struck down, a University of Missouri expert believes that decision could dramatically shift the make-up of many of the nation’s elite public universities and potentially reduce access to higher education for many African American and Hispanic students.

“Affirmative action is often misunderstood and mischaracterized,” said Roger L. Worthington, a professor of higher education at the University of Missouri. “Many people do not understand the importance of diversity in higher education or the legitimate ways that affirmative action is applied to help advance the quality of the educational mission for colleges and universities.”

Worthington believes the arguments that persuaded the court to uphold the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions are even more critical now than in 2003 when the court last ruled on affirmative action, especially as the demographics of the United States continue to move in the direction of a “majority-minority” population, which is a where a majority of the population is made up of minorities. He says that as the nation continues to lag behind global competitors in science, reading, and math, these demographic shifts will be increasingly important in identifying the nation’s path back to educational prominence.

“The U.S. is in the midst of a perfect storm of economic crisis, rapidly shifting demographics, and lagging educational achievement compared to other nations,” Worthington said. “While China, India and Brazil continue to invest in education, the U.S. has allowed our once unequalled educational system to become eroded. Dismantling affirmative action will ultimately become yet another setback for the nation in our efforts to regain prominence in the global economic marketplace.”

Roger L. Worthington is a professor in the University of Missouri College of Education with a joint appointment in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and the department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. Worthington is the editor of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education and one of the founding members of the board of directors for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. Worthington is also a licensed psychologist and he is a nationally recognized scholar on issues of human diversity in counseling and education.