Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW

How college affirmative action affects business

Stacey Vanek Smith Oct 1, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Students walk across the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif. As the Supreme Court considers affirmative action, businesses are weighing in -- in favor. They say it creates a diverse, educated workforce. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

How college affirmative action affects business

Stacey Vanek Smith Oct 1, 2012
Students walk across the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif. As the Supreme Court considers affirmative action, businesses are weighing in -- in favor. They say it creates a diverse, educated workforce. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The Supreme Court reconvenes with a docket that includes business cases involving antritrust and workers’ issues. But one case that could have a long-lasting impact on business doesn’t even involve a company. It’s Fisher v. the University of Texas.

Abigail Fisher was a white student who was rejected by the University of Texas. She claimed it was because of her race and sued the school over the legality of affirmative action. Among those siding with the university in briefs to the Supreme Court are scores of Fortune 500 companies. Why have they weighed on affirmative action in higher education?

“They are looking at the pipeline,” says Gerald Torres, a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “And the university represents their pipeline for building out their workforce.”

Dozens of companies said that to thrive globally, they need diversity. Walmart submitted one of the briefs. A company spokesman told Marketplace that Walmart needs workers from different cultures so it can compete and serve its customers. Walmart was joined by the likes of Starbucks, General Electric and Shell Oil.

Pamela Harris, a visiting professor at Georgetown law center, says she was impressed at the variety of companies that weighed in–from multinationals to small businesses.

“It really wasn’t clear until these briefs were filed that the business community had come to a very consensus understanding of the importance of diversity,” she says.

Will the business briefs make a difference to the court? “That is the million dollar question,” says Harris. She says briefs like this do often hold a lot of weight, but predicts the court will strike down affirmative action.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.