In a 7-1 decision Monday, the US Supreme Court approved the use of race as a factor in college admissions – sort of. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion saying race could be considered if “no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” The Supreme Court has ordered the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to reconsider its position on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
Many expected the conservative Court to reverse earlier stands on affirmative action. While they did not actively defend the practice designed to promote diversity, they did not outlaw it, either.
The decision was based on a case in Texas. The University of Texas admits most of its students based on being Texans and their high school class rank, and does not consider race. About one-fourth of the students have race considered as a factor. Students in the top ten percent of their class are guaranteed admission into Texas University.
Back in 2008, Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian student from Texas who was not in the top ten percent of her high school class was not accepted at Texas University at Austin and sued the University. She claimed less qualified black and Hispanic students were admitted to the University. The case stated Texas University at Austin violated the Constitutional Right of “equal protection” because it placed too much significance on race when admitting minorities.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in today’s decision because she had worked on the case while serving as the Obama administration’s solicitor general. A dissenting opinion was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who stated she did not agree with returning the case to the Appeals Court for a second look. She wrote that the University has a flexible admission policy, and only considers race as “a factor of a factor of a factor of a factor” when considering an admission.
The last time the court made a decision reaffirming Affirmative Action was in 2003 when it upheld race as a positive consideration for university applicants.
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Source: Associated Press, Businessweek, Christian Science Monitor