Can Race Be Considered in College Admissions? Court Says Maybe.

June 24, 2013
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Abigail Fisher, last year in front of the Supreme Court, will head back to the Court of Appeals after today's ruling.

Abigail Fisher, last year in front of the Supreme Court, will head back to the Court of Appeals after today’s ruling.

In a much anticipated ruling on affirmative action and summarized previously by TeenJury, the Supreme Court today issued its opinion in Fisher v University of Texas.  While the Court ultimately decided to send the case back to the court of appeals, it did clarify the burden that colleges must prove in order to use race as a factor in the admission process.  Up until now, universities were acting under the rules established by the court in Grutter v Bollinger (2003). In that case, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that “a university may consider race or ethnicity only as a “plus” in a particular applicant’s file,”  and that the school must act “in good faith” to seek other race-neutral alternatives in achieving diversity within the student body.  In today’s ruling, the Court did not declare affirmative action to be unconstitutional, yet the burden of proof that a university must now overcome in order to use race-based admissions just got larger.  Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority in a 7-1 decision stating that a “university must prove that the means it chose to attain that diversity are narrowly tailored to its goal.”  Furthermore, “reviewing courts must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.”  In other words, race is a factor of last resort in the goal of achieving diversity among a student body.  Clarence Thomas joined the majority, but wrote his own opinion stating that he believed affirmative action violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented and commented that she agreed with the lower courts in finding that University of Texas acted within the law to consider race as one factor in admission.  While it may seem that this case will settle the debate on affirmative action for some time, the Court will hear a case next term about whether or not voters can ban affirmative action in their state.  As always, TeenJury will keep you updated.

Did the Supreme Court reach a fair decision?  What do you think?

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