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Sotomayor: Affirmative Action Alternatives Don’t Work

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor defended race-based affirmative action during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, saying that alternative approaches simply don’t work.

Sotomayor said that race-based affirmative action remained the only viable option for achieving desired amounts of diversity in the student body, and dismissed as insufficient what interviewer George Stephanopoulos termed “less fractious” options, such as looking at income or place of origin.

“The problem with that answer is that it doesn’t work. It’s not that I don’t believe it works, I don’t think the statistics show it works. It just doesn’t.” Sotomayor said.

Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic justice, has in the past credited affirmative action with helping along her ascent from a childhood in Bronx housing projects to degrees from Princeton and Yale Law School. Her test scores at both schools were “not comparable” to those of her fellow students, she has said.

Sotomayor also told Stephanopoulos that schools should avoid focusing on purely academic qualifications for individuals, and used her own alma mater as an example.

“What does qualification mean in an academic setting? A place like Princeton could fill its beginning freshman class with students who have scored perfectly on undergraduate metrics. They don’t do it because it would not make for a diverse class on the metrics that they think are important for success in life,” Sotomayor said.

Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion in the recent case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative action, a 6-2 decision that upheld Michigan’s voter-approved ban on race- and sex-based affirmative action. Sotomayor took the unusual step of reading her full dissent from the bench to express her displeasure with the majority opinion.

Sotomayor was appearing on the show to promote the recently-released paperback edition of her book “My Beloved World.”

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