Supreme Court revisits affirmative action for college admissions

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to revisit affirmative action in college admissions, placing a decade old (5-4) court ruling at risk from today’s more conservative court. The former ruling involved the University of Michigan Law School, which permitted racial diversity to qualify as a compelling governmental interest in public higher education.

The new case originates from the University of Texas at Austin. The university policy keeps otherwise qualified applicants from admissions by admitting less qualified applicants in some instances by basing their decision to admit on race or ethnicity versus academic achievements.


The UT policy includes consideration of race as part of a “holistic” evaluation of applicants who didn’t qualify for admission through either superior academic performance or a plan that grants admission to the top 10% of graduates from each Texas high school. The policy was challenged by lead plaintiff Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the university after applying in 2008.

Most courts, including the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, agree with the university, as did the trial judge in Austin, who continue to base their rulings on the former Supreme Court case. As long as that ruling remains, racial and ethnic preferences will continue.

Sandra Day O’Conner voted with the majority of the court in the 5-4 ruling on Michigan Law school ruling.


Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was succeeded by Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the court’s four other conservatives in a 2007 ruling that forbade public-school districts from promoting diversity through race-conscious pupil-assignment plans.

Both sides view the current case, Fisher v. Texas, as a vehicle through which the high court could narrow or even overrule Justice O’Connor’s opinion.

Both the University of Texas and the Obama administration have been unsuccessful trying to sidetrack the case from consideration by the Supreme Court, fearing the outcome would return admission to college, based solely on academic merit, rather then based on an applicant’s race or ethnicity under the guise of promoting racial diversity.


The litigant simply says, “I hope the [Supreme] Court will decide that all future UT applicants will be allowed to compete for admission without their race or ethnicity being a factor,” Ms. Fisher said in a statement issued by the Project on Fair Representation, a Washington-based foundation that opposes race-conscious government actions and has underwritten her suit.

Who do students think should be admitted to American colleges, those who are academically prepared or those admitted who propote racial diversity?